One of our most valuable resources is our attention. It’s why we “pay” attention, as Arthur Miller wrote – it’s costly, and comes at the expense of our time. But it’s a crucial ingredient in any kitchen, and an underlying theme in Andy Baraghani’s new cookbook, “The Cook You Want to Be.”

I adore Baraghani’s approach to cooking, which emphasizes using your intuition and senses, feeling the food in your hands and tasting as you go – and not just because many of his go-to techniques and flavor combinations are clearly influenced by his Iranian palate. (Hello to all of the lemon and fresh herbs!)

Of the many recipes in his book that caught my eye, the one I think we should make tonight is scallops with grapefruit-brown butter. It’s a simple dish that takes just about 20 minutes to prepare, but will require your full attention.

This is because scallops take very little time to cook, and you really don’t want to overcook them, lest they turn into rubbery pucks.

Attention is warranted, too, because high-quality, dry-packed scallops are not inexpensive. With many of us looking for ways to tighten our budgets, scallops may seem like a luxury. But it’s also a time of great unrest and deep sadness. When things seem so off, so distressing, I like to spend a little extra – money and attention – on myself. Maybe you do, too?

“Scallops are one of those food items that I’ve always thought of as fancy but never trendy,” Baraghani told me by phone. “When I feel like I can afford them, I order them at a restaurant – that’s the move. It feels luxurious.”


For this dish, you’ll pat 16 large scallops dry and sear them in a hot pan. Baraghani instructs you to put the scallops into the pan in a clockwise rotation. It’s a trick he picked up in his years of working in restaurants, including Estela in New York and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. This makes it easier to remember which one you put in first, and therefore which ones need to be flipped first.

Simply seared, they create a fond, or those tasty browned bits of protein and natural sugars stuck to the bottom of the pan. Start to deglaze the pan by adding some butter, which you’ll let melt and then brown. You have to watch this the entire time, to be sure you don’t burn it. Then, it’s time to get punchy.

“Scallops beg to be paired with acid,” Baraghani told me, “and grapefruit is one of the most complex acids, where it has this sweet tanginess and bitterness at once.”

Whisk in some fresh grapefruit juice. As the citrus juice reduces, its bitterness will soften. Within minutes, the sauce will turn silky and glossy – a negligee, barely there but utterly bewitching, transparent and sexy.

Plate the scallops, draping the sauce over and around each one. Then garnish the dish with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of chile flakes. “I love radishes with butter, so radishes with a butter-and-citrus sauce? Easy,” Baraghani says.

Scallops with Grapefruit Brown Butter Photo by Rey Lopez for The Washington Post

Scallops with Grapefruit Brown Butter


20 minutes

4 servings

Sea scallops in a tangy sauce enriched with brown butter make an especially luxurious weeknight dinner. In this recipe, from Andy Baraghani’s book, “The Cook You Want to Be,” the scallops are seared until just golden brown. In the same pan, you’ll form a sauce from grapefruit juice and butter. A sprinkle of chile flakes – Baraghani recommends Aleppo pepper – and slices of fresh radish add a touch of heat and crunch. Look for dry-packed scallops, which have a meatier texture and will sear better than salt water-packed ones.

When buying scallops, check labels and ask your fishmonger for dry scallops, which means fresh ones that are not chemically treated; they will sear properly. Wet scallops are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, a chemical that causes the scallops to expel water when cooked and can prevent a proper sear.

Can’t find scallops near you? Try this recipe with trout, bass or salmon.

The grapefruit juice is especially good here, but any citrus juice works instead, as would pomegranate juice.


Want to skip the butter? Try this with coconut oil. It won’t brown, but it will melt and emulsify similarly.


16 to 20 dry-packed sea scallops (12 to 16 ounces total; see headnote)

Fine salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed


3/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest

2 small radishes, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon mild chile flakes (such as Aleppo)

Flaky sea salt, for serving (optional)



Remove the side muscle from each scallop by pulling it off with your thumb and fingers. Pat each scallop dry and season lightly all over with the salt.

In a large, stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until you see a wisp of smoke. Using tongs, arrange the scallops around the pan in a clockwise rotation, starting at 12 o’clock. Press down on each one lightly, but don’t move them. After 2 to 4 minutes – depending on the size of the scallops – you should see the edges become deep golden brown. Flip the scallops over so the other side can brown, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the scallops to a platter or divide among 4 plates and keep warm. Pour out the excess oil and let the skillet cool for 1 minute.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the butter, letting it melt. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits left over from searing the scallops. (This will give the sauce more flavor.) The butter will foam, then, after about 1 minute, it will start to smell toasty and will have browned.

Add the grapefruit juice – taking care as it may splatter a bit – and cook, whisking, until the sauce reduces and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grapefruit zest. Taste, and season the sauce with salt, if desired.

Pour the sauce over the scallops and scatter the radish slices on top. Sprinkle with the chile flakes, flaky sea salt, if using, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Nutrition information per serving (4 scallops and 1/4 cup sauce) | Calories: 336; Total Fat: 28 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 72 mg; Sodium: 518 mg; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 14 g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “The Cook You Want to Be” by Andy Baraghani (Penguin Random House, 2022).

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