Seared Scallops With Creamy Herb Sauce. Rey Lopez for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

In my constant quest to find alluring flavor in a healthy way, fresh herbs are a hero food. Not only do they bring heady aroma, distinctive taste and vibrant color, they also offer leafy-green nutrition, including vitamins A and C, and a spectrum of antioxidants.

While some herbs are so intensely flavorful – a little goes a long way – I treat the mild, tender ones, such as basil, cilantro and parsley, more like greens than garnishes, adding them liberally to salads, heaping them on grain bowls and stews, and layering them in sandwiches.

I also often find myself pureeing them into some variation of sauce, which I collectively refer to as “simple flavor magic.” Every season is herb-filled in my kitchen, but spring always seems to call for the tender, verdant leaves most insistently.

This recipe turns fresh basil and parsley into a gorgeously green, creamy sauce for succulent, seared scallops. The sauce gets its base note from sliced scallion whites and light greens, which are gently sauteed in some neutral oil. Next, they get sprinkled with flour and simmered with milk until the sauce is slightly thickened and then pureed with the fresh herbs. The puree gets returned to the pan to reduce to a velvety, pale green sauce fragrant with a grassy essence that chimes of spring.

Spread onto a plate and topped with juicy, seared scallops – a fillet of white fish such as cod or halibut would be nice as well – then garnished with sliced scallion greens, it’s an elegant meal that’s surprisingly easy to make, comes together quickly, and drives home the true “simple flavor magic” of fresh herbs.

Seared Scallops With Creamy Herb Sauce

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4 servings

This meal of seared scallops over a velvety, green herb sauce is so elegant, sumptuous and nourishing, it’s hard to believe how quickly and easily it comes together.

Serve with brown rice, quinoa or bread, and/or a green salad or grilled vegetable such as asparagus.

Make ahead: The sauce can be prepared and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance and gently reheated over low heat.

Storage: Refrigerate the scallops and sauce separately for up to 2 days.

INGREDIENTS

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2 bunches scallions (4 ounces total), trimmed

3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as avocado or canola, divided

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup whole or reduced-fat milk

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves

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1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt, divided

1 pound large sea scallops (about 16)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Separate the dark greens from the light green and white part of the scallions. Thinly slice the dark green parts on the bias until you have about 1/4 cup; set aside for garnish (reserve any remaining dark green parts for another use). Chop the remaining light green and white parts.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the chopped light green and white scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the scallions and cook, stirring, until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Slowly add the milk to the pan, stirring constantly, and bring to a gentle simmer. Maintain the gentle simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.

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Transfer the scallion-milk mixture to a blender. Add the basil, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and blend until smooth and pale green. Return the sauce to the saucepan, set it over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens further and is the consistency of thin pancake batter, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm. You should have about 3/4 cup sauce.

Pat the scallops as dry as possible on both sides. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the scallops and cook, without moving them, until they brown on the bottom and release easily from the pan with a metal spatula, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until no longer translucent in the center, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the cooked scallops to a plate, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining scallops. Season the cooked scallops with the lemon juice, and the remaining salt and pepper.

To serve, spread a few tablespoons of the sauce onto each serving plate. Top each with 4 scallops and garnish with the reserved scallion greens.

Nutrition per serving (4 scallops and 3 tablespoons sauce): 218 calories, 11g carbohydrates, 32mg cholesterol, 12g fat, 1g fiber, 17g protein, 2g saturated fat, 690mg sodium, 4g sugar

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