One of my favorite extremely easy weeknight suppers is pasta tossed with caramelized leeks. It's so simple, but quite good. Then I just vary what type of protein I pair with it from sausage, to cheese, to scallops...the sweet, lightly briny flavor of scallops goes wonderfully with the caramelized leeks. And if you top the pasta with a couple of perfectly seared scallops, suddenly your easy weeknight supper turns into something you could serve on date night! —fiveandspice
Test Kitchen Notes
It takes patience to caramelize anything, and I made the mistake of waiting until I was starving to start cooking this dish. It was torture smelling these leeks cooking down, but well worth the wait. This simple dish truly satisfies. The addition of lemon zest was inspired; I now can't imagine serving seared scallops any other way! —avimom
medium leeks, washed and thinly sliced (the white and light green parts only)
Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium until foaming. Add the leeks and stir to coat. Sprinkle with a little dash of salt, then turn the heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re all wonderfully brown and caramelized. If needed, add a little water at any point if they are looking too dry.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add in your pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve a bit of the cooking liquid, then drain your pasta.
Add the leeks and grated parmesan to the pasta. Then, pour your wine into the pan that you cooked the leeks in, turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook for a couple of minutes, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan into the liquid. Pour this over the pasta and leeks and toss everything together, adding a little pasta water to moisten, as needed. Cover lightly and set aside as you prepare the scallops.
Pat the scallops dry and sprinkle them with salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and sear on each side until they are brown and crisped on the outside and just opaque in the middle -- this only takes 2 minutes or so per side.
Divide the pasta with leeks between two plates, then perch half of the scallops on top of each. Sprinkle the lemon zest and some freshly ground pepper over each dish. Finally garnish with the parsley and cheese, and serve. And don't forget to serve the rest of the bottle of white wine.
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.