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Seared Scallops with Sweet Pea Risotto Cakes by Chef Lisa Ahier

Lisa Ahier is one feisty dame and a kick-*** chef. Trained at the illustrious Culinary Institute of America, she has worked in some of the finest farm and ranch kitchens in the US, and for decades her culinary chops have been celebrated by all the important food critics and publications. Lisa eventually found her way to Tofino and instantly felt at home amongst the surf, seasons and seafood. She opened the SoBo food truck fifteen years ago, and it was promptly named one of Canada’s best restaurants. Since evolved into a destination, brick-and-mortar home, SoBo draws a who’s who of diners from around the world. Like me, my friend Lisa loves wines that are pure, salty and fresh, and that cosy up to seafood in an easy-breezy way.

DJ's Wine Pairings

Bodega Garzón’s Albarino is a dry, snappy white with a creamy texture and bright, saline finish. Made not far from the sea in Uruguay, it’s got the vivid acidity and fruit heft for SoBo’s seared scallops and earthy risotto cakes.

The Wine Club pairing:


The crunchy red fruit flavours of this zesty rosé sparkler dance with bright citrus and a bone-dry, dusty finish. Just the ticket for the ocean/herbal/lemony flavours of this classic SoBo recipe.

Seared Scallops


1/4 cup olive oil                                            
12-16 scallops
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup fromage frais
1 cup watercress


  1. Prepare the risotto cakes and lemon mint drizzle. Keep the cakes warm in the oven while you cook the scallops.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over high heat.
  3. Lightly season the scallops with the salt and place them flat side down in the hot frying pan. They’ll cook quickly, so when they release easily from the bottom of the frying pan, 1 to 2 minutes, turn them over and cook the other side for only another 30 to 60 seconds. The scallops should be caramel brown on the outside, and tender and juicy, with a little white translucence remaining on the inside.
  4. To serve, spoon 2 tbsp of lemon mint drizzle in the middle of each plate. Place a warm risotto cake on top of this puddle. Place 2 tbsp fromage frais on top of each risotto cake and submerge a portion of watercress into the soft cheese (like a tree in a snow drift). Arrange three or four cooked scallops around plate. Drizzle the remaining dressing around the scallops.

Sweet Pea Risotto Cakes


4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup arborio rice, uncooked
2 medium shallots, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and slightly mashed
1/4 cup fresh mint chiffonade
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Percorino cheese, grated
2 eggs, whisked
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup canola oil


  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the vegetable stock to a boil and keep it at a simmer.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat to just before smoking point. Add the rice and gently stir with a wooden spoon. Add the shallot and garlic and stir for a few minutes more to toast the rice.
  3. When the rice starts to turn golden-brown, add a splash of wine to test the temperature. If the temperature is right you will see the wine dance and sizzle. When it does, add the remainder of the wine. The rice will immediately start to absorb the wine. Before all the wine has evaporated, add 1 cup hot vegetable stock, stirring continuously. Start a slow, rhythmic pattern of adding 1 cup stock right before the last addition has evaporated. The rice will take about 20 minutes to get to the desired al dente stage. You may or may not use all of the stock; don’t worry if you have a ½ cup or so left over.
  4. When the rice is al dente, add the peas, mint, butter, and cheese, and stir to combine. Pour the risotto mixture onto a baking sheet to cool for at least one hour. 
  5. When the risotto has cooled enough to handle, roll into balls the size of golf balls, then flatten into 3 inch-wide disks.
  6. In a small bowl, place the whisked eggs, and in another small bowl place the breadcrumbs. Dip each cake in egg and then coat in breadcrumbs.
  7. Heat the canola oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the risotto cakes in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Saute the first side until golden brown, 2 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side for another 2 minutes, or until crispy.

Lemon Mint Drizzle


1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped     
3 tbsp roasted garlic, pureed
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3/4 cup olive oil
dash salt and pepper


  1. In a bowl, combine the mint leaves with the garlic, vinegar and lemon juice and zest.
  2. Add the oil slowly, whisking until the dressing has emulsified. 
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Refrigerate for up to 3 to 4 days, after which the mint will lose its vibrant green color.


Serves 4.

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