The plum and fennel salad can be made well in advance of serving, but cook the scallops just at the last minute. If you wish a robust and pleasant counterpoint to the scallops and salad, place a dollop of Fennel and Walnut Chutney on each plate with the hot scallop and chilled salad.
For the Fennel and Plum Salad:
- 1 head fennel, the stems and feathery tops removed
- 4 firm but ripe plums, pitted, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, torn in small pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted California walnuts
For the Scallops:
- 1 1/2 pounds large (sea) scallops
- 2- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- To make the fennel and plum salad, cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Slice it very thinly, using a mandolin, the thinnest slicing blade of a food processsor, or a very sharp knife. Place in a large bowl and add the plums, parsley, chives, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss to combine and coat, then refrigerate for an hour or two. When you are ready to serve, add the walnuts and toss the salad again.
- Prepare the scallops just moments before serving. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season them with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a heavy nonstick sauté pan or skillet. Keep a close eye on the oil, and when it is very hot, add the scallops to the pan. (Don’t crowd the scallops in the pan, and cook in two batches if necessary.) Sear, or brown the scallops well on one side for about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the scallops and add the butter, garlic and thyme to the pan. Swirl the pan to distribute the seasonings and melt the butter. Rapidly spoon some of the melted butter over each scallop and cook for a minute or two more. Total cooking time will be 3–4 minutes.
- Transfer the hot scallops to plates and arrange some of the chilled plum and fennel salad over and around them. Serve immediately.