Earth and Ocean

Sea Scallops with Herbed Lentils, Champagne-Butter Sauce and Roasted Walnuts

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Many dishes are enhanced with contrast – elements of hot and cold, sweet and sour or bitter. A well-known example pairs foods from the land and sea- surf and turf, lobster and steak.

My expression of a the land and sea idea came about when I found a half bottle of unfinished champagne and was craving an antidote to a month of holiday feasting.

Lean, protein-rich sea scallops beg for an earthy contrast which I translated to an anchor of herbed lentils. A champagne butter sauce marries the two and toasted tannin-rich walnuts add another earthy counter to the sweet the scallops.

Ingredient notes:

Leftover champagne is a rarity so I generally make this with dry white wine – a fine substitute.

Black beluga lentils, named for their resemblance to caviar, make the best color contrast but French green lentils work beautifully. A cup of cooked lentils is well-worth the 230 calories with about 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of dietary fiber and nutrients that include thiamin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

The lentil is an excellent source of “resistant starch.” Similar to dietary fiber, these starches resist digestion in the small intestine and go on to the large intestine where they act as a prebiotic feed the “good bacteria” residing there. At least 20 grams of resistant starch daily) is associated with improved bowel health, blood sugar control and higher absorption of nutrients. A cup of cooked lentils has about 6.8 grams of resistant starch. (Reference 2.)

Scallops frozen at sea just after harvest are excellent quality. Read the label and select ones that have not been treated with additives such as sodium tripolyphosphate which imparts an off flavor and causes the scallops to retain liquid so they steam and resist browning. To facilitate browning, I thaw scallops in the refrigerator overnight in a sieve set over a bowl to catch liquid. Then pat dry with a paper towel before cooking.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

A 3 ½ ounce serving of cooked scallops has about 20 grams of protein, a gram of fat, 110 calories, is an excellent source of B12 and selenium and a good source of zinc, among other nutrients.

There’s nothing like the taste of butter. This recipe shows how a little goes a long way – imparting rich flavor and helping the scallops brown beautifully.

As January comes to a close, it might be time to refine those New Year’s resolutions into something that will stick and make you feel good for the rest of the year. How about a vow to set aside time to cook something indulgently healthful and utterly satisfying once or twice a week?

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Sea Scallops with Herbed Lentils, Champagne-Butter Sauce and Roasted Walnuts

Sage is my favorite herb to use in this dish because it too is earthy and assertive – other herbs work well too.

1 cup black beluga lentils or green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, marjoram or thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound sea scallops
1 cup dry champagne or white wine
1/2 cup toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts
1. Swirl olive oil in large saucepan with lid and place over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, till shallots are soft. Stir in lentils, 1 1/2 cups water, bay leaf and ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover with lid placed slightly ajar and simmer gently for 15 to 30 minutes, until lentils are just tender and liquid is gone. Remove from heat, stir in 3 tablespoons sage and parsley. Cover and keep warm while cooking scallops.

2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add scallops to the center of the pan and spread shallots around scallops. Sprinkle scallops and shallots with a pinch of salt and ground white pepper. Cook scallops, turning once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through; as scallops cook, gently stir shallots a couple of times, until softened. Remove cooked scallops to warm plate, leaving shallots in pan. Add champagne to skillet, increase heat and simmer until reduced to about ½ cup. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

3. To serve, spoon lentils into a warm, shallow serving bowl. Top with scallops. Spoon warm sauce over scallops and lentils. Sprinkle all with remaining chopped sage and toasted walnuts. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

1. Resistant Carbohydrates in Dry Beans: Friend of Colonic Probiotics, Foe or Colorectal Cancer. Robin B Dahm, RD, LDN. Dry Bean Quarterly, Vol. 4. No. 1 Spring 2013.

2. Amount of Resistant Starch in Lentils, Michelle Kerns, Demand Media. SFGate

© 2015 Lorelle S Del Matto

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


  1. So fun! When my husband and I lived in NY many years ago when we were first merirad (and vegetarian) his aunt had us out to her house in NJ for seder and made us special vegetarian chopped liver with STRING BEANS (yep, it can be done!) and walnuts, HB eggs, onions, salt and pepper. It was delish and I make it every year still, in her honor. But I am SO going to have to try your recipe with the lentils! That sounds fab!!

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