Perfectly Seared Scallops have never been easier! The Ninja Foodi does it again... better than cast iron, better than stainless, and better than a restaurant!
In the kitchen sometimes things happen, quite by accident, and the end result is so amazing that you're speechless! That is exactly what happened to me when creating this recipe and I am so happy it did!
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Let me just get this out of the way: I don't like traditional couscous. I've tried it a few times and the texture is very odd to me. I'm specifically talking about the small grain couscous used a lot in Mediterranean cooking.
So, when I set out to make seared scallops in the Ninja Foodi with a vegetable risotto and found out I didn't have risotto, I scoured my pantry for a substitute. In there (and I have no idea why I had it) was this pearled couscous. Hmmm... what the heck, I'll use it. It's just a first test of a recipe idea, I can make it with risotto next time.
Except that never happened because it was so darn delicious, I kept the pearled couscous!
What are the differences between Couscous and Israeli or Pearled Couscous?
Scouring the internet for an answer to this question proved difficult and confusing, so I'm just going to explain the differences by taste, texture, and cooking method.
If you have more insight on couscous, I'd love to hear it! Please make a comment below the recipe!
Traditional couscous is made from semolina flour and a bit of water and formed into very small balls. It's even smaller than a grain of rice and usually yellow in color. This type of couscous is dried. Many of the types of couscous that you get in the store are instant couscous that have already been steamed and then dried.
Traditional couscous has a very little flavor and relies on preparation and spices to flavor it. To make this type of couscous, you simply boil water (stock is even better) with seasonings and pour over the couscous and let it sit to absorb the liquid. Then you fluff, add in whatever other ingredients you like and eat it.
Some like it cold, some like warm, some don't like it either way and that would be me!
The texture reminds me of sand and I don't like to eat sand. I've tried it a couple of times and it just isn't for me. Just because it isn't my cup of sand, doesn't mean you won't love it... give it a try if you have never had it.
If you love it, I'd love to hear from you! Maybe I just don't make it correctly. I am open to any and all suggestions and certainly willing to give it another go.
Israeli or Pearled couscous, on the other hand, is terrific! This, too, is made from semolina flour and water, but the balls are much larger.
They are about the size of a small bead. You know those kind that all the kids were threading onto bracelets? Well, I hope you get the picture. If not, you'll see their size when you pick some up to make this seared scallop with pearled couscous recipe!
Pearled couscous differs from traditional couscous in that it is roasted and not just dried. This imparts a roasted nuttiness that adds flavor where traditional couscous is lacking, in my opinion.
Usually pearled couscous is simmered in boiling water for about 10 minutes or so, just like pasta. It is pasta. It puffs up and ends up having a wonderful chew to it just like the perfect al dente pasta.
I took a chance, having never cooked pearled couscous before, and used the Ninja Foodi on low pressure for 3 minutes. The result was perfection! And boy did this pearled couscous pair nicely with the seared scallops in the Ninja Foodi!
What Vegetables Can I Use In The Pearled Couscous
I've tested this recipe with a variety of vegetables and there are many variations you can try.
Green Beans: Substitute or add fresh or frozen green beans without any changes to the recipe.
Fresh Spinach: Fold in at the end to avoid overcooking
Frozen Spinach: Add in with the couscous before pressure cooking and reduce the liquid amount by ¼ - ½ cup based on how much spinach you add. I would say ¼ cup of liquid reduction for every cup of frozen spinach.
Eggplant: Add in before pressure cooking. No other changes to the recipe required.
Peppers: Add them in before pressure cooking. No other changes required.
I'm sure there are many more that can be added, just keep in mind that have to cook with a 3-minute low pressure cooking time, so things like rutabaga or beets wouldn't be good choices.
How to Sear Scallops in the Ninja Foodi
Searing scallops, while simple in context, isn't always easy to do. I guess I should say, it isn't always easy to do correctly.
The perfect scallop has a nice brown sear, is translucent in the center, fork tender, and it should melt in your mouth.
While putting a scallop in a pan and flipping it seams pretty straightforward, there are a few very important tips to getting a perfectly seared scallop.
Remove the abductor muscle on the side. This is a small piece of muscle that attaches the scallop to the shell and it is tough and chewy.
Eating a scallop with the abductor muscle will result in biting into a chewy part. Scallops are small & expensive enough -- we don't want any of the experience to be chewy and tough.
You can easily remove it with your fingers buy gently pulling it off of the side. It is a small protrusion on the side and is usually a little darker in color.
Rinse and DRY your scallops: After the scallops are thawed (if they are frozen), rinse them in cold water and then dry them on paper towels or on a clean dish rag. I have used these flour sacks and they work great, but make sure to wash them right away or they will begin to smell.
Drying scallops is not simply blotting them off a bit. I really mean they need to be dry dry! The best way to do this is to get as much liquid off of them as you can and then using clean paper towels or a dry dish towel, wrap them in a single layer. Place the towel on a plate in the fridge overnight.
Say what? Overnight? That is the BEST way to do it; however, you can get them dry enough in about 30-40 minutes. Just set them in the fridge and let them be while you make the pearled couscous with vegetables or whatever you decide to serve with the seared scallops.
Use a HOT Pot: There really isn't any wiggle room here. The pot has to be hot, really super hot, in order to sear the scallops quickly so they don't over cook. Everything we do in cooking is about time and temperature and managing them. Seared scallops in the Ninja Foodi or any other pan or pot are a perfect example.
Scallops cook very quickly and when over cooked, they become rubbery and tough. So we have to manage the temperature effectively to ensure they get that golden sear in the right time frame so they don't over cook.
I found that a dry pot worked best for preparing seared scallops in the Ninja Foodi, so I turn the sear/sauté on high for at least 5 minutes. Then I spritz with olive oil just to see if I get the sizzle. If the oil sizzles, we are good to go. If it doesn't, let it heat up for a few more minutes and spritz again.
Don't Rush: This is super important. Don't rush the preheating, if the oil doesn't sizzle don't put the scallop in. You only have one chance per scallop to get the sear, so rushing it just doesn't make any sense.
Never flip until the Scallop tells you too: This might sound funny, but it is the second most important thing to remember when preparing seared scallops in the Ninja Foodi.
Scallops, just like any other type of meat, will tell you when it's time to flip because they will release from the pan on their own.
At first you will think they are stuck on the bottom of the inner pot and you might be tempted to force them off. DON'T DO IT! Let them cook, they will take between 60-90 seconds and sometimes a little longer and then, like magic, they will release and you can flip them over.
Don't Overcook Scallops: Scallops are one of those foods you mustn't overcook. In fact, when obtained from a reputable source, you can eat them raw. So it is much better to air on the side of undercooked rather than overcooked. Once I flip the scallops, I turn the Ninja Foodi off and let them cook about 60 seconds before I remove them from the pot.
I usually spend some time detailing how to make the recipe, but this one is so easy and I already gave you all the tips and tricks so let's get to the recipe for Seared Scallops in the Ninja Foodi with pearled couscous & vegetables.
Seared Scallops in the Ninja Foodi with Pearled Couscous & Vegetables
Pearled Couscous with Vegetables
- 2 Tbsp butter salted
- 1 onion diced, about 2 cups
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 carrots sliced, about ¾ cup
- 1 zucchini cubed, about 1 cup
- 8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 cups pearled couscous
- 1 Tbsp Minors vegetable base or equivalent
- 4 springs fresh thyme
- 2 ½ cups water
- 1 cup peas see recipe notes
- Thaw the scallops if frozen in the fridge or in ice water. Remove the abductor muscle. Rinse and dry very well. See post for drying instructions. Place scallops in the refrigerator wrapped in paper towels or a clean dishtowel until you are ready to sear them.
- If using frozen peas, remove from freezer and thaw.
- Dice the onion, slice the carrots into ½" rounds, peel and smash the garlic with the back of your knife. Cube the zucchini into 2" chunks.
- Remove the mushroom stems, clean the mushrooms with a slightly damp paper towel and quarter them.
- Turn the Ninja Foodi on high sear/saute and add 2 Tbsp of butter.
- Add in smashed garlic, onions, carrots, zucchini, pearled couscous, and mushrooms.
- Add in 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper and saute for about 3 minutes.
- Add 1 Tbsp of minors vegetable base, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 ½ cups of water. Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Set the pressure to LOW for 3 minutes. When the time is up immediately release the pressure.
- Stir in the thawed peas. Remove from the Ninja Foodi and place in a covered dish to stay warm while you sear the scallops.
- Rinse & dry the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi. Set the Ninja Foodi to high sear/saute
- Remove the scallops from the refrigerator and unwrap from the towel. Sprinkle with salt and restaurant pepper or fresh ground pepper.
- Spray one spritz of olive oil into the Ninja Foodi, if it sizzles the pot is hot enough. If it doesn't, let the pot heat up for a few more minutes and spritz again with oil.
- When you hear the sizzle place the scallops and lightly push down on each one. Place 8-9 scallops around the middle of the inner pot. Let sit for 30 seconds and spritz with oil again. I usually spritz 3-5 times.
- The scallops will cook on the one side about 90 seconds. When you can easily lift them from the pan, flip and turn the Ninja Foodi off. Let cook about 60 seconds and remove. It is always better to undercook the scallops rather than overcook them.
- Remove the scallops and place on a plate. Repeat if you are cooking more scallops.
- Spoon the pearled couscous with vegetables on a plate and top with scallops. Garnish with fresh thyme if desired. Serve and enjoy!
- Tips for searing scallops are in the post
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Ninja Foodi Fresh & Healthy Meals
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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Just. Made this. I must cut my carrots too big, could have went to 4 minutes; otherwise perfect. Just two of us, might cut back on couscous. Always left overs. Thank you Louise
I'm glad you enjoyed it!
This will be my 5th or 6th time making this dish. Thank you Mrs. Long for a recipe that is perfect for scallop lovers. The couscous isn't as easy to find here in Virginia as is was in Arizona but I occasionally get lucky. I always purchase more than 1 package. Your recipe is simple, easy and oh so tasty! The best part is I think my friends + fellow animal rescue people have developed "Seared Scallops Radar". Everyone seems to "drop by" on the days I'm making this fantastic dinner. Please thank Jeff for me as well. The two of you are a greatly appreciated & wonderfully generous with your time. Sincerely, Mary Pat & The Extraordinary Eight Rescue/Service Animals.
Thank you so much! Jeff and I are thrilled that you (and friends) are enjoying the recipe!
I am so glad to hear that you enjoy the recipe!
This was fabulous! My favorite Ninja Foodi recipe so far! So good that I had to comment!
I'm so glad you enjoyed it!