Weeknight Dinners: Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Weeknight Dinners: Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

It may be fall, but summer’s tomatoes are not finished. The days are warm and gentle, and our tomato plants are hanging in there, kicking back and relaxing on the vine in the golden California sunshine. We pass by and pop them in our mouths, or pick a bunch and pile them in bowls for a snack. But they still accumulate. When I have too much (is that really possible?) I look for other uses, and there are many.

This is one of my favorite ways to cook with an abundance of cherry tomatoes. It coincides perfectly with the beginning of the school year, when we are crazy busy and running in 4 directions. The family dinner becomes elusive and suddenly time specific. Yet it’s even more important now, providing a great moment to sit together and connect after our busy day. This recipe is the perfect antidote. It may be prepared in almost no time, it’s healthy and economical, and it usually pleases the fussiest of eaters. Which is good, because they need to eat and get to their homework.


Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Serves 4, unless you have a teen-aged boy. Then it serves 1.

For the Breadcrumb Gremolata:
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and/or basil
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the pasta:
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes

Prepare the gremolata:
Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry skillet until light golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Prepare the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling bowl. Add linguine and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down, but don’t completely dissolve, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Add linguine to skillet and toss to coat. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Chile and Parsley Gremolata

Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Chile and Parsley Gremolata

~ Spaghetti, Cauliflower, Red Chile, Parsley, Garlic, Lemon, Breadcrumbs ~

It’s a wonder what a bare refrigerator can produce for dinner. I’ll be honest – the contents of my fridge looked bleak the other day. It was 6 pm, dinner hour was fast approaching, and we were 4 hungry people in the mood for good food – something warm, filling and tasty. I know I write and think about food for most of my day, every day, but sometimes all of that writing and thinking doesn’t materialize as a meal on our dinner plate. This happens, and there we were.

Upon urgent inspection of the refrigerator, I found half a head of cauliflower and a forlorn chile pepper in dire need of rejuvenation, amongst the usual staples including a hunk of cheese and fixings for an oh-so-simple green salad. It would be a pasta night, I knew then, and with these ingredients I made a riff on a gremolata topping. Gremolata is a condiment that traditionally includes parsley, garlic and lemon, served over meat and fish. In this case, I took the basic ingredients of a gremolata and tossed them with breadcrumbs and Pecorino cheese before tumbling the whole lot with finely chopped cauliflower, minced chile and garlic. It was a hit – and so were the groceries I purchased the next day to refill our refrigerator.

Spaghetti with Chile Cauliflower Gremolata

Taste the fresh minced chile for heat, and feel free to adjust the amount of chili flakes to your taste. Serves 4.

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 head medium cauliflower, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces, about 2 cups
1 red jalapeno or small Fresno chile, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

Heat panko, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a skillet over medium heat until breadcrumbs are golden, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. When cool, stir in cheese, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add cauliflower. Saute until cauliflower begins to soften, 3 minutes. Add chile and saute until cauliflower is tender but not mushy, about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the spaghetti. Add half of the breadcrumbs and toss again. Divide pasta among serving plates. Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs over the pasta. Serve warm.

Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

~ Linguine, Cherry Tomatoes, Breadcrumb Gremolata ~

The end of summer signifies many things: Labor Day BBQ’s, back to school excitement, cooling temperatures – and lots of cherry tomatoes. Our tomato plants have chugged along this summer in a cooler-than-usual climate, and suddenly seem to have picked up steam in a last minute hurrah to the end of summer. Our bushes are heavy with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, begging to be picked. We oblige and pop them in our mouths (the best way to eat a ripe cherry tomato is straight up, warm from the vine – nature’s candy at its best). However, there are only so many that can be munched on in a day or scattered over a salad. It’s time to get creative with our bounty, and so I have a recipe, or two, for you that I will share this week. The first is this light and simple dinner that may be thrown together in less than 30 minutes.

Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Serves 4.

For the Breadcrumb Gremolata:

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and/or basil
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry skillet until light golden. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

For the pasta:

1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling bowl. Add linguine and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down, but don’t completely dissolve, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Add linguine to skillet and toss to coat. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve immediately.

Seared Sea Scallops with Gingered Pea Purée and Lemon Cilantro Gremolata

Scallop Gremolata tf

Sometimes, it’s all in the accessories. I first made this recipe a year ago when I was experimenting with cilantro in a gremolata and decided to combine it with seared scallops. The scallops were served with a simple spring pea purée and garnished with the gremolata. The dish was beautiful to look at, and the peas exuded a soft sweetness that married well with the briny scallop. Since then, it has been a favorite go-to recipe for special occasions – the figurative little black dress in my cooking repertoire.

But, like any wardrobe, recipes can stand a tweak from time to time. Maybe it was my mood or maybe it was the dreary weather, but when I made this recipe the other day, I craved a little extra zing. So, I made a few additions to the pea purée: fresh ginger and a pinch of cayenne. The result was delightful. The extra touches bolstered the flavor of the purée, distinguishing it from the sweet scallops while complementing the assertive lemon cilantro gremolata. Like a special scarf to the figurative little black dress, these culinary accessories were the flourishes I needed to make this recipe sparkle.

Seared Sea Scallops with Gingered Pea Purée and Lemon Cilantro Gremolata
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer

For the Cilantro Gremolata:
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Pea Purée:
2 cups shelled English peas
salt
1 large garlic clove
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne

16 large sea scallops, about 1 1/2 pounds
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Prepare the Gremolata:
Combine the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside.

Prepare the Pea Purée:
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the peas. Cook until peas are tender. Remove from heat and drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Combine peas, garlic, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne in bowl of food processor. Purée until smooth. Add some of the reserved water (approximately 1/4 cup) to thin to desired consistency; the purée should not be too thin. Discard remaining water. Transfer purée to a bowl and keep warm.

Prepare scallops:
Pat scallops dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the scallops, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, turning once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining scallops.

To assemble, spoon pea purée on serving plates. Top with scallops. Sprinkle scallops and purée with gremolata. Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.