Sumac-Seared Scallops with Mostarda

By Nik Sharma

Sumac-Seared Scallops with Mostarda

Sumac-Seared Scallops with Mostarda. I spent four wonderful summers celebrating the Fourth of July at the Pines on Fire Island, in New York. Michael and I would share a house with some of our closest friends and spend a week on that little oasis. There was only one grocery store near us, and one evening, I ended up with a bunch of scallops but no lemon or lime juice with which to flavor them. Thankfully, sumac came to my rescue and no one noticed the absence of fresh citrus at dinner. Serve these scallops hot over my Apple and Pear Mostarda.

Makes 3 to 4 appetizer servings

12 sea scallops

½ tsp fine sea salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp ground sumac

3 to 4 Tbsp Ghee (recipe follows)

1 cup [250 g] Apple and Pear Mostarda (recipe follows)

1 Tbsp water (optional)

2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)


Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Mix the salt, pepper, and sumac in a small bowl and sprinkle all over the scallops to season.

In a medium skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat the ghee over high heat. When the skillet is hot and the ghee starts to smoke, add the scallops. Cook until they develop a deep golden brown crust, 1½ to 2 minutes per side. Drain the scallops on paper towels.

In a small saucepan, heat the mostarda over medium-low heat until it just starts to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes (do not let it boil). If the mostarda seems too thick, stir in the water. Spread out the mostarda on a serving dish and arrange the hot scallops on top. Garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately.


The Approach

Most seafood benefits from a dash of acid. In this recipe, however, I skip the usual suspects (lemons, limes, and vinegar) and opt for sumac, a common spice in North African and Middle Eastern households. The small fruit, from which the powdered sumac is obtained, has a strong, lemony acidity, which makes sumac a great substitute when you’re out of citrus.

I recommend searing the scallops in ghee because of its nutty caramel notes, but you can use duck fat if you prefer a more bacon-like flavor. When prepping the scallops, blot them with paper towels so they’re as dry as possible to ensure a nice, dark sear. I love to serve these scallops with something fruity, and the Apple and Pear Mostarda provides that extra special dash of flavor.



Ghee is one of the most popular fats used in Indian cooking. It is a form of clarified butter, from which the milk solids and water are removed. Because the milk solids and sugars are caramelized in the fat before their removal, they give the ghee a nutty fragrance. Ghee can last for months if stored correctly, because the water, sugar, and proteins are all removed.

Makes approximately 1¼ cups [250 g]

1 lb [455 g] unsalted butter, cubed


Line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place over a clean, dry 1 pt [480 ml] jar with a tight-fitting lid to hold the finished ghee. Set aside.

In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, stirring occasionally with a large metal spoon. As the butter starts to melt, skim off and discard any foam that rises to the surface. Cook until all the water in the butter boils off, and the fat stops sizzling and turns a deep golden yellow. The milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan will be reddish brown. The entire process should take 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour the liquid through the cheesecloth-lined strainer into the jar. Seal the jar and store the ghee in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months, or indefinitely in the refrigerator.


Apple and Pear Mostarda

Italian mostardas are like spiced preserves. They live at the intersection between sweet and sour and are traditionally prepared by cooking fruit with mustard seeds. In this apple and pear version, I add dried juniper berries and a dash of verjus blanc to the mustard and fruit.

Makes 2 cups [510 g]

1 large Bartlett pear (8½ oz [240 g])

2 large Honeycrisp apples (8 oz [225 g] each)

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1 Tbsp dried juniper berries

2 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp food-grade mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup [60 ml] verjus blanc (white verjus)

Peel and core the pear and apples, and cut them into ¼ in [6 mm] dice. Combine the fruit with the remaining ingredients in a medium nonreactive saucepan, such as stainless steel. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.


Reprinted from Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018


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