I am not enamored with scallops, but keep trying. My husband likes them. He also prefers stab-able pasta to the string kind. Shopping at the co-op, gazing into the fresh seafood counter, the scallops gleamed like opalescent fat pearls or maybe squashed pillows, different hues of white to peachy. The were big 10-20’s, the count per pound, and called dry although they looked wet. Dry means no liquid pump to make them appear bigger so you pay for water instead of only sea flesh. Oooh that sounds disgusting.
I bought a pound and they sat in the plastic bag in the refrigerator for two days. Their presence gnawed away at me. I had to cook them or freeze them. I didn’t feel inspired. I poured a glass of wine. How does anyone cook dinner without sipping wine? I boiled water for farfalle and heated butter and olive oil in my favorite Caraway sauté pan; zested and juiced a lemon; grated a half cup of parmesan, and pulled some toasted slivered almonds and a bag of arugula from the fridge. I plucked the scallops from the pan after a few minutes–not as browned as I wanted, next time butter only–and set them aside. I splashed green olive oil from a humungous plastic container (my step daughter had lugged it back from Spain) into the emptied still hot pasta pot. Heated the oil and added the zest and juice, okay, a little more butter; turned off the gas flame and dumped in the al dente pasta. This perfect bite of pasta is only achieved by tasting a piece every five minutes or else I overcook it. Parmesan and arugula are stirred into the pot then a sprinkling of nuts. The pasta heaped into big bowls with the scallops perching on top. Garnish away.
My husband says it’s the best thing he’s ever eaten. He says this often. This doesn’t diminish his sincerity. He’s grateful for anything I cook having grown up in a family where food was mostly prefab. The first time I fed him, maybe our second date, I plastered a premade pizza crust–you know, the kind that hangs in little bags in the grocery store–with olive oil and sautéed onions and mushrooms, garlic, and fresh chopped tomatoes and basil. Eyes wide. “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” I didn’t really believe him then; I just thought he wanted to get into my pants. That was twenty-seven, or is it twenty-eight, years ago. We have not always had perfect meals.
I only used two thirds of the box of pasta otherwise the dish would’ve been diminished by too much starch. I’ve learned over the years how omission can let flavor flourish. Who cares if ziplock bags with leftover pasta populate the cupboard.
Oh! Sometimes I mix in a spoon of crème fraîche at the end, balancing the citrus. Or not.