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Make Ahead: Spicy Shrimp and Mint Pasta

Roman_shrimp2012
Not to get off topic, but I was very moved recently by two events: the death of Adam (MCA) Yauch, of the Beastie Boys, and the news that Warren Buffet, the famed investor, has prostate cancer. It suddenly seemed to me that nothing can protect me, not fame nor talent nor wealth. Time is limited, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.

Good food is one way to enjoy each moment, but making that good food takes time, and time is always at a premium for a working parent. I’ve long been trying to figure out how to deal with this—how to have good food and still hold down a job, get the kids to school, help with their homework, etc, etc, etc.

My latest solution, and I’m sure it’s not original but I’m happy to have hit on it, is to do as much of the work as possible ahead of time. On Friday, for example, I wanted to make an old favorite, Roman Shrimp. It’s a wonderful dish, a bit spicy and unexpectedly refreshing because it’s made with mint. The sauce has a deep richness because it’s made by browning the garlic. Typically, this is a big no-no, but in this case it is a move that gives the sauce a distinct flavor.

Before I went to work on Friday morning, I sliced the garlic, and browned it with two chili peppers. I chopped the tomatoes and added them to the pan and cooked it for few minutes. Then I turned everything off and let it sit on the stovetop all day (I took out the chili peppers). When I came home from work, it was ready for me to finish. I spent fifteen minutes on it in the morning.

Later that night (I had to work late, so it was even better than I had anticipated that I had started the sauce), all I had to was cook it down a bit (which I did while I boiled water and made pasta) and add the shrimp and fresh mint. A particularly delightful dinner was ready in a matter of minutes.

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp with Garlic and Fresh Mint a.k.a. Roman Shrimp 

  •     1-2 chili pepper(s)
  •     6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half and then sliced
  •     1 28-oz. can peeled plum tomatoes, diced
  •     1/2 to 1 lb. peeled medium shrimp, sliced lengthwise into two pieces
  •     1/2 cup or more of fresh mint, chopped
  •     Spaghetti or other pasta of choice.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

In a large saucepot, heat olive oil and then add the garlic and the chili pepper. Cook the garlic until it is brown. This gives the sauce an intense, dark note.

Add the tomatoes and reduce.

Start to cook the pasta.

When the pasta is cooked, stir the shrimp into the tomato sauce.

Cook the sauce until the shrimp curl into spirals and are cooked through.

Add the mint to the sauce and serve.

Note: It is important to slice the shrimp lengthwise into two pieces before cooking. This accomplishes two things: it cause them to twist up into neat shapes while they cook, and it allows them to cook even faster than if they were whole, and we all know how important that is!

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