We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series this fall in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we bring you a luscious pasta dish from Cara Colbert, a BGSK contributor and fan.
Cara’s love of food began when she was (reportedly) a chubby child. To her, birthdays meant cake and Christmas meant cookies. For Cara, any occasion is an occasion to eat, which is why she loves to cook for others and dine out as much as her small budget can afford. An adventurous eater, there isn’t a food she won’t taste or a recipe she won’t try. When Cara isn’t eating or cooking, she enjoys writing (usually about food), watching the Food Network, and browsing online for new recipe ideas and restaurant reviews. Mostly a self-taught cook, Cara recently graduated from Boston College and moved to New York in hopes of pursuing a career in food writing and eating her way throughout the city. She blogs at Food 4 Thought and has written for Behind the Burner. Here are her thoughts on recreating beloved restaurant dishes and the recipe for one of her favorites, Linguine with Scallops and Pancetta from Maialino.
–Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
Living in New York City, you could eat at a different restaurant every day without ever going back to the same place. Food is everywhere here.
For someone who loves all types of cuisines and, more importantly, loves to eat, it can be quite difficult to restrain myself from eating out for every meal. Most quarter-life cooks in New York, myself included, cannot afford such frivolous habits. But how do you make home cooking as exciting and tasty as a nice restaurant meal?
I recently made a delicious seafood pasta dish inspired by a dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, Maialino. Made with scallops and pancetta in a lemon white wine sauce, the pasta sounds much more complicated than it really is. A lot of us would rather order takeout than take the time to prepare a homemade meal. But home cooking can be just as easy as placing an order online, and definitely much easier on your wallet.
There are a few great ways to add restaurant-quality flavor without adding up the tab. First, use fresh herbs. They have a much brighter flavor than dried herbs, and they add an aesthetic elegance to a dish. For this recipe, I used fresh flat-leaf parsley in the sauce as well as a garnish–that way I get fresh flavor and a beautiful pop of color.
Second, I love to cook with wine when recreating restaurant dishes. Wine helps to add depth and complexity and can really elevate your everyday meal to something special. The white wine in the below recipe gives the simple sauce much of its bold flavor. While the wine gives depth, I also add fresh lemon juice to really brighten and perk up all of the flavors. (See BGSK’s Guide to Flavoring Your Food)
I think the best advice is: don’t be afraid to try something new! What makes dining out so exciting is that we often choose foods that we don’t cook for ourselves. I love seafood, but I’m always a little intimidated to prepare it on my own. Cooking scallops is a particular fear of mine. The first couple times I tried, the scallops were either under- or over-cooked. But once you start experimenting, you’ll see what works. (Like I did: now I sear the scallops in hot oil for about two minutes on each side, and I have a better sense of when they’re done.) Do a little research before taking on a new challenge. See what other recipes recommend. But you’ll never learn if you don’t give it a shot!
Finally, it’s all about the presentation. Think about the atmosphere in a restaurant: good lighting, nice napkins, clean presentation. Putting the extra effort into the setting and display of the food can instantly make the meal restaurant-quality. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to do this either. Play some good music, use matching silverware, add appropriate garnishes to finish off a dish, such as fresh herbs. My little apartment ain’t anything fancy, but with the right mood, this dish of linguine with scallops and pancetta made my boyfriend Keenan and I feel like we were dining first class.
–Cara Colbert, BGSK Contributor
Linguine with Scallops and Pancetta
½ pound (about ½ box) linguine
6 sea scallops
¼ pound pancetta, diced
½ tablespoon olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup white wine
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
French baguette or crusty, white bread, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat a small drizzle of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until slightly browned and crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and let rest on a paper towel.
Add the remaining olive oil to the same pan. Cook the garlic and crushed red pepper until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper, then add to the sauté pan with the garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook until a light crust begins to form on the bottom side, about 2-3 minutes. Turn over the scallops and cook on the other side.
Once the scallops have cooked for another 2 minutes, return the pancetta to the pan and add the white wine. Raise the heat to medium-high. Taste for seasoning; add salt and pepper as needed. Let the wine simmer for about 2 minutes, until it starts to bubble. Add the lemon juice and parsley, reserving some for garnish. Stir the sauce for another 2-3 minutes to let the flavors mesh.
Add the drained linguine to the sauté pan, using tongs or a pasta spoon to combine. Divide the pasta and sauce between two plates, with 3 scallops to each serving. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with warm, crusty French bread to sop up the lemony juices.