The tastiest members of the mollusc family, scallops are also the most mistreated. You can occasionally buy live-in-the-shell scallops in Chinatown, but they're almost never found alive elsewhere locally. Instead, most commercial scallops are steam-blasted open, a process that partially cooks them before they're subsequently frozen. In addition, they're usually soaked in phosphates to lengthen their shelf life. This process changes their appearance from translucent to opaque and makes them less flavourful. It also means they absorb more liquid, making them more expensive by weight than natural raw bivalves. Miraculously, despite all the manhandling, scallops can still be damned tasty.
This simple recipe for pasta with scallops and lemon butter comes from Donna Hay's New Fast Food (Whitecap), a beautifully designed cookbook that features uncluttered contemporary cuisine. In a saucepan of boiling water, cook 1/2 pound fresh pasta -- flat ribbon noodles like fettuccini or tagliatelle -- for 4 to 5 minutes until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, melt 2 ounces of unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons shredded lemon zest and a grinding of black peppercorns and cook for another minute until the lemon rind is soft. Add 10 unfrozen scallops to the pan and cook for 30 seconds on each side until seared. To serve, drain pasta and toss with 1 cup fresh chervil sprigs (fresh Italian parsley can be substituted but doesn't have the same licorice-like taste), then top with the scallops and lemon butter sauce. Serves two.