By Edward Schneider
As I said the other day when a menu board outside a raucous saloon provided the magic word (“chowder”) that defined that evening’s dinner, we turned out to have bought more than one meal’s worth of scallops. There were also plenty more peas and herbs, and we didn’t use the fava beans at all.
So we needed a dish that was the same but different: some of the same core ingredients, but new flavors and textures, and a new staple to replace the potatoes. The same options as the day before remained open: risotto or other rice variations, for instance. But on my contemplative walk home I remembered that in the freezer was a pint container of egg-pasta disks: a while before, we’d made some kind of ravioli/tortelli/dumplings, and the filling had run out before the pasta, so we’d laid the extra disks out on a paper-lined tray, froze them and stored them in the container. Never again would they work for ravioli (once defrosted they would probably get gummy), but thrown, frozen, into boiling water they’d be kind of like Ligurian corzetti, except eggier than most and without the stamped decoration.Jackie had shelled the peas and fava beans the day before, but she hadn’t skinned the favas. She thinks that is a silly waste of effort. Now, I’m not the man who scrapes lamb chop bones clean before cooking and certainly not the man who skins peas – yes, there are people who skin peas, mostly in well-staffed restaurant kitchens. But where I want the springtime prettiness of favas rather than their longer cooked heartiness and more distinctive flavor, I prefer to skin them. Again, this is one of those jobs that’s fun and relaxing if you don’t have to do a lot of it and aren’t doing it for a living. All you do is blanch them in boiling water for five or ten seconds, shock them in iced (or at least cold) water, then use your thumbnail to make a tiny opening at one end and pop the lovely green bean out of its tough skin.
Other preparation consisted of boiling a pot of salted water for the pasta, chopping some parsley and tarragon and quartering each scallop. The pasta would take four or five minutes, and nothing else would take longer, so when the pasta went into the pot I “steamed” the peas and favas in a large skillet with almost no water and simultaneously gave the salted and peppered scallops a quick sauté in butter. I added the scallops to the peas and favas, then the cooked pasta, then some butter and the chopped herbs. A check for seasoning, and that was that.
You may have noticed the absence of shallots/onions/whatever. That was to further differentiate the dish from the previous night’s, but they were also entirely unnecessary: here, the peas, beans and scallops shone against the very delicate background of the egg pasta, enhanced by the particularly fresh herbs.