It’s not often that there’s a bowlful of leftover lobster in our refrigerator, but there was the other day: Jackie and I had had a multi-course dinner out and couldn’t clean our final plates without bursting, so we took the remains home. (Let me anticipate the more likely scenario in which there isn’t a bowlful of leftover lobster in the fridge and say that today’s excellent summer dish can be made with uncooked fresh – or fresh from the freezer – shrimp/prawns. I’ll indicate how as I describe the lobster version.)
Between the two of us, we had salvaged a heaping cup (around 275 ml by volume) of lightly cooked, tender lobster meat – plenty for any of several meals. We could, for instance, have made a couple of lobster rolls (modest in size) or a lobster salad, but that would have involved figuring out appropriate side dishes. No, after a moment’s reflection, I decided that spaghetti was the way forward: pasta with lobster and just a couple of other flavors is an enduring favorite.
In this case, the main “other flavor” was tomatoes: The cherry tomatoes from one particular farmers’ market grower are exceptionally good at the moment – savory to the point of meatiness, juicy and thin-skinned – though soon, at the height of the season you’ll have to evaluate the options, because a perfect full-size tomato, peeled and very roughly chopped, would be an excellent choice too.
The other other flavors were to be basil, a minimal hint of garlic and a good dose of Aleppo pepper, one of the fruitiest and sweetest of moderately hot chilies. (Aleppo pepper figured in the broth accompanying the original dish at the restaurant, so, beyond its inherent virtues, it maintained some continuity with the previous night’s dinner.)
All these flavors needed to be carefully dosed so as not to overwhelm the delicate lobster meat, and here’s how I did it (for the usual two portions): Having cut the lobster into nibble-sized pieces and set it aside, and having brought to the boil a pot of salted water for the spaghetti, I scored half a dozen ripe cherry tomatoes with a knife, blanched them in the boiling water for 10 seconds, transferred them to a bowl of cold water and slipped off their skins. I then quartered them, lightly salted them and set them aside. Now, in a skillet large enough to eventually hold the spaghetti, I gently warmed a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil, added a whole peeled clove of garlic and a good pinch of Aleppo pepper, and over low heat let the oil pick up flavor from the chili and the garlic without scorching or even browning either.
At this point I put the spaghetti in to boil and added the quartered tomatoes to the skillet, raising the heat to medium so as to warm and lightly cook the tomatoes and let their juices run without breaking them down to a pulp. I turned off the heat and waited for the pasta to be nearly done. I then lit the fire under the skillet and when the tomato mixture was hot added the lobster to warm through, followed by the spaghetti and a handful of basil (another herb, such as parsley or mint, would have been nice too). As usual, I tossed and stirred the pasta in the pan for half a minute, adding a splash of the cooking water and checking for salt.
(If you are using raw shrimp/prawns, cut five or six of them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the skillet along with the tomatoes; after 90 seconds, remove the pan from the heat and bring it back to heat when you’re about to add the spaghetti.)
When transferred to a warmed serving bowl, the pasta was drizzled with our best olive oil. As we ate, both of us felt that additional zip was needed, so we sprinkled our portions with more Aleppo pepper, and that did the trick.
Once the pasta water has come to the boil, this whole dish doesn’t take much longer to prepare than it does for the spaghetti to cook, so next time you can’t finish your dinner look ahead to the following night – especially in summertime, when the tomatoes are at their best.