Kristine Kidd

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Gluten-Free Comfort Dinner
Scallops in Tomato-Olive-Thyme Sauce

Here is an easy, gluten-free dinner for this busy season: seafood simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and then spooned over quick, creamy polenta. Although we appreciated it on a busy weeknight, it is festive enough for the night you decorate your tree or an impromptu holiday gathering.

The seafood and the polenta are endlessly variable and indispensable dishes I return to over and over again. I gave you the recipe for my microwave polenta a few days ago. Today I’m offering the seafood formula. The last time I made this satisfying meal, tender bay scallops were on sale, and the vibrant sauce enhanced their sweetness. However, I have made the same recipe with chunks of Alaskan halibut, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, shiny black mussels, large sea scallops, and briny calamari.

I find that almost anything is made even better with a big handful of fresh herbs. Thyme, rosemary, and sage grow in my garden year around, and any one of them is great here. When I use rosemary or sage, which are woodier than the other herbs, I add them earlier than the thyme and let them sauté with the onion. I also love this with marjoram, Italian parsley, or cilantro- any of these get added at the same juncture in the recipe as the thyme. The real point is to use what you have on hand, either in the fridge or growing. No need to buy an herb just for this dish.

Sometimes I augment the sauce with pitted kalamata olives, on other occasions I use capers instead, and now and then I toss in both. Of course, the sauce would also be good without either. I usually spice the recipe with a big pinch of red pepper flakes, but it is still lively without the chiles. When I am in the mood for more vegetables, I melt thinly sliced greens into the sauce at the end, or sauté a chopped bell pepper with the onion.

We’re getting our Christmas tree on Saturday, and I think I’ll make this dish again while Steve drapes on the lights. I’m thinking of using manila clams, marjoram, and broccoli rabe this time.

Scallops in Tomato-Olive-Thyme Sauce (gluten free)

Kristine Kidd
Spoon this over quick polenta, for a comforting Italian dinner.
Makes 2 servings; can be doubled or tripled
Course Seafood
Servings 2


  • Creamy Microwave Polenta, made without the cheese
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • cup dry white wine
  • 1 14.28 oz can tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 10-12 oz bay scallops
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme


  • Start the polenta.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper flakes and sauté until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the scallops with salt and black pepper. Add to the skillet, turn to coat with the sauce, cover and simmer until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes. Mix in the olives and thyme, and simmer until the scallops are cooked through, about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Divide the polenta between 2 warmed plates, spreading in a circle. Spoon the scallops and sauce over and serve.
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