I went to the farmers’ market the other day and went basil crazy. I bought so much basil, the smell of it lingered in my car for two days (which was preferable to the smell of wet dog that usually dominates).
I often overbuy at the market, seduced by abundance. Then I go home and realize that I have set myself up for a lot of cooking, and irritation kicks in. But with the basil, this simply did not happen. I think it’s the way basil smells. It’s aromatherapy for crabby cooks; the perfume makes you actually willing to prepare food.
I started with the obvious (pesto), making two batches for the freezer and even having the foresight to set a couple spoonfuls aside for extra projects. (Add some to mayonnaise for future turkey sandwiches and add some to vinaigrette to pour over future sliced tomatoes.) Crabby cooks are seldom known for their futurism in cooking—it’s enough of a struggle just to cook what you need to eat RIGHT NOW—so this was significant for me, maybe even historically unique, this setting aside business.
Anyway, after all that, I still had more basil. So I made something that my husband would object to on many levels. (He won’t eat scallops or cooked tomatoes or, for the moment, pasta.) But he was out for dinner so I made it just for me. Cooking like this for myself is also not crabby-typical. Again, it was the bewitching scent of the basil that sent me into kitchen overdrive.
The pasta was fabulous. The basil is gone, as is my will to cook. The good news is, there’s pesto in the freezer.
Scallopy Pasta With Roasted Grape Tomatoes
* Yield: Enough for 2 big eaters or 3 moderate eaters of 4 women who live in Beverly Hills.
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
½ pound linguine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 pound bay scallops
2-3 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
¼ cup cream
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove over high heat to bring to a boil for the pasta.
2. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of the olive oil, and use your hands to toss the tomatoes in the oil until they are all evenly coated with it. Sprinkle the tomatoes with about ½ teaspoon of salt. Place them in the oven and roast until the tomatoes are collapsed, about 15 minutes. Set the tomatoes aside.
3. Place the linguini in the boiling water and cook until al dente (just tender), drain it and return it to the pasta pot. While the pasta is cooking, place the butter and remaining oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the Old Bay seasoning and the red pepper flakes and stir, then add the wine, raise the heat slightly, and cook until it is reduced by half.
4. Add the scallops to the pan and cook for two minutes. Add the spinach and the basil and cook, stirring a couple of times, just until the spinach is wilted, about two minutes. Sprinkle the mixture with another 11/2 teaspoon of salt, stir in the cream, if you’re using it, and the cheese and cook for another minute. Then add the scallop mixture to the pasta in the pot and stir to combine well. Serve the pasta immediately, with extra cheese on the side if desired.