Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pasta with Scallops, Lemon, and Garlic

When you live alone (or even if it's just a couple people) cooking can be a bit difficult. To make things easier, we sometimes resort to cans of soup, tuna, or ramen noodles. Whatever we can find already "finished" in the cabinet because it's such a hassle to get things out and make a mess for so little.

One day I wanted something good and "real", but wasn't sure what I wanted. I didn't feel like going out or driving somewhere, not even the grocery which I actually walked to since it was about 2 blocks from my apartment. So, I looked around to see what I could find. I threw together this pasta and it turned out to be really good!

While brainstorming I was lucky enough to have some frozen (tiny!) scallops which I ended up thawing inside a plastic bag in a sink of warm water. I hadn't thought to leave some in the fridge to thaw before I left for work that morning.

This is one of those recipes that can be made to taste (more of this, less of that...). The recipe can easily be made for more or less people- just increase or decrease the proportions. I actually used to double a single-ish portion (which was never really exact anyway) and take half for lunch the next day.

For example: for the purposes of this post the bag of scallops was 16 oz (1 lb.) and said it had about 5 servings. I was cooking for 3 people, so I decided to use about 3/5 of the bag. Nothing exact. I used about 2/3 to 3/4 of the 1 lb box if pasta I had. See? No rocket science here. Just fractions.

When I made this, I used what I had around. If you don't have or don't like spinach, it's ok. I would say it might be good to have some parsley in there for color though.
If, when everything is all finished, you think it needs more lemon juice- just sprinkle it on. Adjust things as you see fit.

Using both butter and olive oil can be a good thing- butter for the flavor, and olive oil because it has a higher smoking point and will not burn as easily. However, if you want to use just one (no problem with that), go for the olive oil. This oil, along with lemon juice, liquid from the scallops and the flavors you add, essentially becomes your pasta sauce.

I'm not so much a fan of spaghetti, linguini, and angel hair pastas. Especially not the angel hair because, personally, I feel like it chokes me...
I really prefer the shapes- because they look interesting and because I like the texture. I also think it performs much better al-dente-wise than the spaghetti-style pastas.

So, these scallops are "fresh frozen" at sea. It make me wonder if they have a giant flash freezer on the boat. How do those things work, anyway? Do you need electricity for something like that? It sounds dangerous out in the middle of the ocean. They probably have a lightening rod on the boat too- life on the edge, I'm sure.
Maybe it's solar powered... or it uses a gasoline-powered generator...
BUT, maybe they just sail with tons of liquid nitrogen or dry ice. Catch them, clean them, throw them in the deep freeze.
It's not really something I ever looked into seriously as I wasn't so keen on becoming a deep sea fisherman. It was something I sort of wondered with fish sticks a long time ago (how one would freeze something on a boat)- but the occupation of "fish sticks" wasn't really on my radar.
Maybe that one (along with my fishy naivety) has something to do with a general lack of "sea" in the Midwest.

Lemon, Scallop, and Garlic Pasta
Serves 3-5

2/3 lb. pasta of your choice
3T olive oil
3T butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 lb. scallops
zest and juice from 1/2 large lemon (2-3 T juice)
1/2 t kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Parmesan (fresh grated if you have it)
3 oz fresh baby spinach (approximately 3 handfuls)
2 medium tomatoes, large dice (or cherry tomatoes, halved)

Bring pot of salted water to boil, add approximately one serving of pasta and cook per instructions on package. Do not overcook pasta!

Place cleaned spinach in large bowl and set aside.

Melt butter with olive oil in small frying pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute, but do not let the garlic brown. Add scallops and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice, zest, salt, a good grinding of fresh black pepper and toss with scallops.

Drain pasta and toss with scallops and sauce in pan. Pour scallops and sauce into bowl with spinach. Spinach will wilt with residual heat from pasta. Fold in tomatoes. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan and pepper to taste.

Note: Scallops and sauce should stay warm for a little while- and if you need to, you can add the salt and pepper and just keep them in the pan on low or warm heat. Prior to adding pasta to pan, stir in lemon juice and zest.

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