- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fresh, fast, and delicious. Those adjectives describe what I consider to be the perfect main course for a summer dinner party.

When the temperature is hovering around 90, as it does at this time of the year, the last thing I want to do is to spend hours in front of a hot stove. I still love to entertain, though, so I just change my cooking style.

I look for recipes that take little more than half an hour to prepare and that have light, bracing flavors. Linguine with lemon pesto and sauteed scallops falls clearly in this category.

I saw a recipe for lemon pesto in a French magazine last summer but never got around to trying it. This year, though, as the temperatures began to soar, I pulled it out and tried it, adding my own touches.

For this citrus-scented version, flat leaf parsley and basil are combined with Parmesan cheese, olive oil and a hint of garlic. It’s the generous addition of lemon juice and zest, however, that makes this pesto distinctive and more refreshing than the classic version.

Like all pestos, this one takes only a few minutes to assemble and puree, and makes an ideal sauce for cooked pasta.

I used sleek, long linguine strands, but fettuccine or even penne would also work well. I quickly sauteed sea scallops until golden and arranged them atop the warm noodles. Then each serving was garnished with a sprig of basil and a dusting of Parmesan.

A salad of arugula or baby spinach tossed in a red or white wine vinaigrette and a loaf of crusty ciabatta would make fine sides. For a no-fuss dessert, you could serve raspberries and sliced peaches topped with dollops of whipped cream in wine glasses, along with some good store-bought biscotti.

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy” — the lyrics to the famous song are what this dish is all about.

Linguine with lemon pesto and scallops

4 teaspoons lemon zest

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

11/3 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup basil leaves plus 4 basil sprigs for garnish

½ cup olive oil plus 2 to 3 tablespoons extra for sauteing the scallops

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled

Kosher salt

1 pound linguine

Water

11/4 to 1½ pounds large sea scallops, with side muscles removed

Freshly ground black pepper

Place lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 cup of the cheese, parsley, basil, ½ cup of the olive oil, garlic, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender. Puree until mixture is smooth. Taste, and if desired, add a little extra salt.

Cook linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander and return to pan. Toss with lemon pesto and season with more salt, if needed. Cover and keep warm.

Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. When hot, but not smoking, add scallops and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Salt and pepper scallops well.

Divide the pasta among 4 shallow bowls. Divide scallops and arrange on top of the pasta in each bowl. Garnish each serving with a basil sprig and sprinkle with some of the remaining cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).

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