A Luxurious and Healthy Valentine’s Day Dinner

Citrus Scallops over Quinoa Risotto with Fennel

[Jump right to the recipe: Citrus Scallops over Quinoa Risotto with Fennel]

I’ve long been a fan of making dinner at home on Valentine’s Day instead of going out to a restaurant because there’s something so special about cooking for someone important to you. While my Valentine’s Day menus often include decadent favorites like lobster, steak, and truffles, this year I wanted to put together a healthier menu that would still feel decadent.

Scallops are a perfect healthy luxury ingredient. Per ounce they have just 31 calories and less than a gram of fat. They are also a great source of B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper. They are naturally rich and just a little sweet, so you don’t need a lot of them to fill you up. Because they cook best over high heat in a dry pan, you don’t even have to add oil during the cooking process.

I love risotto – in really crazy ways do I love it – but it’s not particularly healthy. Besides the fact that risotto rice isn’t a whole grain, most risotto preparations involve quite a bit of oil, butter, and cheese. As an alternative, I’ve put together a quinoa risotto that uses a little bit of mascarpone to emulate the creaminess of a traditional risotto. Quinoa is an ancient grain originally cultivated by the Incas. it sports the highest protein content of any grain and is a complete protein source. It’s also gluten-free and high in fiber, making it a healthy alternative to rice and couscous.

Because the scallops are so rich, the nutty and slightly crisp quinoa helps balance out this dish. The fennel is a strong enough flavor to hold its own with the scallops and quinoa, and the citrus in the scallops brightens the entire flavor profile. I served asparagus as a side, but really, and lightly roasted vegetable will do. And of course, save room for a little dark chocolate for dessert.

Recipe: Citrus Scallops over Quinoa Risotto with Fennel


  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Serves: 2
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 20 min
  • Weight Watchers™ Points: 12


For the quinoa

  • 1/3 c. red quinoa
  • 2/3 c. water (or more as according to package directions
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • ¼ small red onion, diced
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 1 head fennel, core removed and sliced
  • ¼ tsp. fennel seeds
  • ½ c. champagne
  • ½ c. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese or goat cheese
  • ¼ c. chopped parsley

For the scallops

  • 10 oz. scallops (6-8 total)
  • ¼ c. panko
  • 2 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 2 tsp. minced thyme
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. butter, softened


For the quinoa

  • Cook the quinoa according to package directions.
  • Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap; store at room temperature until ready to use.
  • Add the butter and olive oil to a large sauté pan. Heat over medium-high heat until the butter is melted.
  • Add the red onion and cook over medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onion.
  • Add the shallot, fennel, and fennel seeds to the pan and cook until the fennel is soft, about 5 more minutes.
  • Add champagne to the pan, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the liquid is reduced by half.
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Add the chicken broth and mascarpone or goat cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.
  • Add the quinoa and parsley to the pan. Toss to combine.
  • Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

For the scallops

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Combine the panko, orange zest, thyme, salt, pepper, and butter in a small bowl and stir to combine.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven-safe skillet on over high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Place the scallops in the skillet and let them brown for 1 and a half minutes.
  • Turn the scallops and top them with about a tablespoon of the panko mixture, distributing it evenly among the scallops.
  • Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for another 1-2 minutes, being careful not to overcook the scallops.
  • Remove from the oven, place on the quinoa, and serve immediately.

Recipe for Success

  • Because this dish was for Valentine’s Day I used red quinoa, but you can use any color quinoa you like. Black would be a great contrast to the white scallops.
  • The key to success with scallops is not to overcook them. They should be a little less than firm to the touch.
  • You can substitute garlic for the shallots in the quinoa if you are a fan of garlic. You could also stir ½ a cup of parmesan into the quinoa to make it creamier. This will increase the points value of the dish.
  • A crisp white wine with little to no oak can substitute for the champagne.
  • Resist the urge to put oil into the skillet in which you cook the scallops. They will do best in a very hot and dry pan. You know they are ready to flip when a brown crust forms on the bottom and the release easily from the pan.


  1. Wow, that meal looks fantastic! Hubby and I may be staying in with meal ideas like that!

  2. Gorgeous! I’ll have to try this as I’m a huge fan of both quinoa and scallops.

  3. This looks delicious. I’m obsessed with scallops. Will you be my valentine?

  4. This looks like a great meal. Thanks a lot for the recipe.