When life gives you Meyer lemons, make lots of stuff. A couple of weeks ago, Marion made Cornish Hens with Meyer Lemons and Olives for our Valentine’s Day post here. We were pleased with ourselves for finding beautiful, seasonal Meyer lemons at a bargain price.
Then we got an email from the lovely Christina over at A Thinking Stomach. Seems she has a Meyer lemon tree growing right in her own yard, producing more fruit than she knows what to do with. She offered to send us some. Being no fools, we answered with a grateful, enthusiastic “Yes, please!” Still, we were unprepared for the bounty of fragrant, yellow beauties that arrived on our doorstep days later.
As it happened, I had recently been thinking of making a pasta dish with pine nuts, scallops and lemon. So not only was Christina exceedingly generous, her timing was impeccable. (Watch for future recipes here, as Marion and I continue to take advantage of this swell gift.)
Growing up in the Midwest, it took me a long time to call pasta anything other than spaghetti or expect anything but a red sauce on it. Even though that revelation happened quite a while ago, I am still often freshly taken aback at just how varied pasta dishes can be. And how “sauce” can be as simple as a little olive oil – and maybe, as in this case, some lemon juice – when combined with a handful of well chosen ingredients.
With such dishes, each element stands out as its own distinct flavor, creating a lively complexity that changes from bite to bite – very unlike long cooked red sauces in which flavors melt together. In this case, it was the light, meaty sweetness of the scallops, the nutty crunch of the pine nuts and garlic’s unmistakable pungent hit balanced by the freshness of the parsley… and over it all the bright lemon flavor, delivered as much by the zest as by the juice. Marion said of this dish that it tasted unlike anything else she’d ever eaten (and she meant that in a good way).
Linguine with Bay Scallops and Meyer Lemons
Serves 2 (can be doubled)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 pound bay scallops
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, plus additional wedges (or regular lemon)
2 generous tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
8 ounces uncooked linguine (or other long pasta)
Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently to avoid burning, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool completely. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, rinse scallops and pat them dry with paper towels. When pasta is almost done, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pan. Add scallops to pan, season with salt and pepper and sauté quickly, about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with slotted spoon.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to pan and sauté pine nuts for about 1 minute. Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Return scallops to pan and turn off heat. Add drained pasta and lemon juice to pan and toss to coat. Add lemon zest and parsley to pan and toss some more to coat. If pasta is too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water (with the lemon juice, I didn’t need any additional liquid). Divide between two pasta bowls. Serve with lemon wedges.
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