Shrimp Pasta in a White Wine reduction sauce

Shrimp Pasta in a White Wine reduction sauce

When I need a quick meal, I turn to my pantry and freezer, looking for what can be defrosted quickly.

Shrimp is a sure bet for a quick nights meal. I lay mine out on parchment on top of my granite. The stone pulls the cold out of the shrimp and defrosts it lickity split.

While your shrimp is defrosting, start the water in your stock pot over high heat and get your sauce going:

Chop a couple of large shallots in to a fine dice,

Melt a couple tbsp of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking until they are translucent. Add a good generous glug of white wine (about a cup). I used a chardonnay. It should be a wine you would drink, since you will be reducing it and icky/off flavors will only get amplified.

Reduce the wine by more than half, until it starts to look more golden in color and all the alcohol has been burned off. If you start with 1 cup, reduce to 1/3ish. I eye-ball it based on the starting level in the pan.

Add 1-1.5 cups of seafood stock, fish stock, lobster or shrimp stock; or in a pinch, chicken stock. Reduce this by half again.

Your water should be boiling by now, generously salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions. If you are using Gluten Free Pasta, you will drain and rinse the pasta in hot water. You must generously salt the water or your pasta will taste flat. I use the palm of my hand for about 6 quarts of water.

Back to the stock, while it is reducing, prep your veggies. In this dish I used some leftover baby spinach, part of a leftover heirloom tomato, defrosted green peas, and a little finely diced red pepper. I put these in a large serving bowl with some fresh finely chopped parsley.

When the shrimp are defrosted (you can use a colander and running cold water to defrost, but be sure to pat dry), toss with a generous amount of fresh minced (or put through a press) garlic, salt, pepper (I used Szchewuan) and a good squeeze of lemon. Cook in a saut√© pan over medium-high heat with a good dollop of olive oil. Don’t waste extra virgin oil, just use regular. They should be done in about 2 mins top. Set aside and keep warm.

When your sauce is done reducing, add a squeeze of lemon, some crushed tarragon, remove from heat and swirl in a couple tablespoons of unsalted COLD butter. Swirl until the sauce looks thick and glossy.

When the pasta is al dente (meaning it has a bit of bite to it, not super soft), then use your tongs and straight from the pot, to add the pasta directly to the sauce. You want some of that starchy pasta water to help thicken the sauce and add flavor. (If you are cooking GF, save a small amount of water, drain, rinse and then add the noodles. Add water if you need to loosen it up in the sauce) The heat of the sauce will continue to cook the pasta. Do not overload the sauce with pasta, you most likely will not use a whole package of pasta, eyeball it. Pour the entire thing over the top of the veggies and toss till the spinach wilts.

Serve with the shrimp on top, a glass of the white wine, and a nice salad on the side.

*See recipe modifications to make with GF noodles.


Oh Mahi Mahi this was GOOD!

Oh Mahi Mahi this was GOOD!

I was already missing the tropical breezes, roaring ocean and balmy breezes a week after returning from our island visit. So to appease my yearning for anything to (as the Calgon commercials go) ‘take me away’, I pulled some Mahi Mahi out of the freezer and set to work creating something for dinner.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a well stocked fridge and pantry. I just love to cook and I love to cook spontaneously. I hate having my creativity limited by having nothing on hand. So, I keep a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer.

This entire meal was ‘created’ using my Flavor Bible as a food/spice pairing guide, creative juices and what I had on hand. This is a ‘one pan’ meal, all cooked in stages in my trusty cast iron skillet.

First to be cooked were the potato medallions. I had duck fat in my fridge, and there is nothing better than potatoes cooked in duck fat! Seasoning them with salt and pepper, I let them cook until well browned and tender. On an oven safe plate they went in to a 200 deg oven to keep warm. I left the pan with that lovely seasoning and next;

I bloomed some Alleppo Pepper in the pan, adding a little olive oil, and a lot of garlic. I ‘shaved’ the brussels sprouts while the potatoes were cooking and sauteed them in the pan. When tender but still crisp, into an oven safe container and put in the oven. I wiped the pan clean with a paper towel.

Next came the fish, seasoned with salt and pepper, then pan fried with extra virgin olive oil.

While the potatoes and sprouts were cooking, I mixed up a simple salad in a bowl. Sliced radishes, cucumber and red bell pepper. I made a simple dressing of white wine vinegar, grapeseed oil (very healthy for you), a pinch of sugar, good healthy splash of Yuzu, salt, pepper and a handful of chopped cilantro.
Also while the fish was cooking I made a pistou of cilantro, salt, garlic and EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil). Simply chop the cilantro and garlic fine on a cutting board, add some kosher salt and with the flat side of your knife mash and combine by ‘smearing’ it on the board. Add to a bowl and add enough oil to make it look like the photo. It’s really a ‘to taste’ type of condiment.

The end result was heaven on a plate. And yes, for a brief moment, if I closed my eyes I could pretend I was back there in paradise.


Leftovers Soup: Turkey-Spinach-White Bean

Leftovers Soup: Turkey-Spinach-White Bean

I know it sounds odd, but it’s what I call it. Leftovers Soup is a yummy and easy way to use up those leftovers so they don’t go bad nor go to waste. This particular soup used up the turkey leg meat from a previously roasted turkey; Turkey stock, made from the bones of previously mentioned turkey; and a half of a Costco container of leftover baby spinach.

I also added onions, celery, carrots (which I always have on hand), a package of mushrooms (which were on sale at the grocery, I can always find a use for reduced price veggies!), and precooked white beans pulled from my freezer.
(When you have time cook up beans and portion the beans in 2cup measurements into quart ziploc bags and freeze. This way you can have the convenience of ‘ready to use’ beans at a far cheaper cost than canned)

For spices I used Alleppo pepper for a bit of spice (you can use red pepper flake), 2 packages of Goya ‘Sazon‘¬†(it gives the soup that lovely red color and adds a distinct puerto rican flavor-buy it and keep it on hand!), a good heavy handed shake of PenzeysMural of Flavor‘ and a bit of salt & pepper to taste.

I garnished with this soup with parmesan cheese. (Which I buy at the big box retailer and keep in the freezer. I then portion some in a small container to be kept in the fridge)

With leftover soup try to think of combinations that go well together. For example, turkey and mushrooms are a natural pairing. I have a book ‘The Flavor Bible‘ that helps me with ideal food combinations and pairings.

Layer flavor by browning or sweating your vegetables. Add chili pepper flakes to the oil while sauteeing to ‘bloom’ the flavor and temper the heat. Add durable spices (like bay leaf) to the liquid in the beginning of simmering, and add fresh (cilantro/parsley) or delicate spices (tarragon/marjoram) near the end or as a garnish. Add dark meats early to eek the flavor out of them, delicate/white flesh meats near the end. Frozen peas or corn are added at the end also, so they don’t overcook and get mushy.

If using raw lentils, add at the beginning, they take some time to cook. Cooked beans, however, add and simmer just long enough to heat through, otherwise they tend to break apart.

For more of a chowder style soup that is gluten free, make a “slurry” – cornstarch mixed with cold water/stock/milk – and add, cooking to thicken. You may also use arrowroot, but only for dairy free soups. Arrowroot + dairy = slime. Use about 1 tbsp of starch for every 1.5-2 cups of liquid.

Tomato paste really deepens in flavor if cooked with the veggies in the beginning with the oil. Add when the veggies are soft, just before you add the stock, cooking it a bit to take the rawness off. It adds a complex depth and dimension and a bit of thickness to the soup.

Save those meat bones! If you don’t have time to make a simple stock from your chicken or turkey dinner, put them in a ziploc freezer bag and freeze them until you do have time. No need for defrosting, just plop them in with carrots, celery and onions, and simmer and let reduce. The stock can then be used or frozen for future use. As my grandmother taught me: waste not, want not. Use your homemade stocks as one of the layers of flavor foundation for your soup.

Depending upon my mood, what is in the fridge and what I have on hand, I save myself money, prevent food waste and feed my family food that I know is healthy and good for them.

As a side benefit, I always have a little leftover for hubby to take to work for lunch the next day, or an afternoon snack for a hungry child going returning from school and headed out to their athletic activities.

I hope this inspires you to look at those leftovers in a new fresh way: Transform turkey, mashed potatoes, and corn in to a chowder. Cubed leftover meatloaf can be the beginnings of a riff on Italian Wedding soup. Left over beets can be morphed in to a kicked up Borscht topped with healthy greek yogurt garnish. Leftover lamb makes a fantastic ‘curry’ with chickpeas and canned tomatoes.

The possibilities are endless!