Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grilled Shrimp and Tomato Pasta Salad

I write this post listening to the repair man hack away at our furnace while cursing frequently.  I swore too when I was given the quote for a new circuit board, a part quite necessary in running the air conditioner.  Fucking thing is massive, bigger than the motherboard on my first computer which weighed more than the Stanley Cup.  The entire laptop I'm typing on now was cheaper than this new board that is hesitantly making its way to the interiors of the cooling machine.  Hopefully only another hour or so until we can condition our air for the first time all summer.  I like the heat and humidity for the peppers and tomatoes to thrive, but not so much when it's 86°F and 82% humidity inside the house. Needless to say, we've been using the grill a lot in this warm stretch, although that is a common cooking method this time of year with or without the modern convenience of air conditioning. 

This is one of those summer dishes that is quintessential to the season.  Summer-in-a-bowl is the ultimate summer dish, but we have to wait until the local corn and tomatoes from the garden are ready.  We've made it once this summer for a cook-out with the grocery store produce, it's extremely underwhelming with such poor quality ingredients.  

From start to bowl in 15 minutes, this recipe is quick and easy.  Maybe just a quarter hour after you've thawed and peeled your shrimp, which is my preferred way to purchase them.  With a pound or two always in the freezer, a speedy dinner is always at the ready.  I found a box of rotini infused with spinach in the back of the pantry, not sure where that came from but I let her know it was a great idea, because she doesn't get enough credit for her great ideas.  Don't have both cheeses?  Just one of them will do, and of course, make sure it's the good stuff!  If you don't shred it yourself then it is most likely tasteless. 

Grilled Shrimp and Tomato Pasta Salad
4 servings

1.5 TB unsalted butter
3/4 C panko breadcrumbs
lemon pepper garlic seasoning
1 lb. large shrimp (16-20) shelled and deveined
1 lb. spinach rotini or pasta of your choice
3 large garlic cloves, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 C freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 C freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
3 long green onions, green part only
8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Fire up your grill for high heat and get your salted pasta cooking water over high heat on the stovetop.  Melt the butter in a small skillet and toast the panko breadcrumbs, stirring often, until nicely browned, about 3-4 minutes.  Dump breadcrumbs into a bowl and set aside. Reserve skillet. 

Skewer the shrimp and season with a lemon pepper garlic type blend, or just give them a good raining of S&P.   Oil lightly with EVOO.

Skewer the tomato with the cut side facing up.  Season with S&P.

Begin cooking pasta according to package directions, always test one to two minutes early to ensure your desired tenderness.  

When your grill is ripping hot, place the shrimp skewers over direct heat and put the tomato skewers off to the side a little, cut side up.  Cook for 3 minutes, then carefully flip the shrimp and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until just opaque and cooked through. 

With the now-empty skillet, heat a TB of EVOO over medium high heat.  Once warm, saute the thinly sliced garlic for about 30-45 seconds, until just fragrant.

Into a large serving bowl, combine the drained pasta, shrimp, tomatoes, most of the cheese, and most of the basil and green onion.  Serve in bowls and top with remaining cheese, basil, and green onion. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Arugula

I'll admit it.  I'm old.  As in, not young anymore.  It wasn't an instant realization, more like a progressive wave of events the last few weeks.  An intern recently joined the office, fresh out of high school.  She's half my age.  We got a new tenant in our rental property.   He was born in the 90's.  My neck and upper back is still quite tender from pulling a muscle.  Folding down a car seat.  I find myself tucking in my shirt more often at work.   Even when the very important people aren't around.  I just got life insurance.  Shit I remember this weird but awesome band Radiohead making their TV debut on The Arsenio Hall Show with the hit song 'Creep'.  What finally pushed me over the hill?  The paper.  Myself and this guy even older than me, we are the only ones in our office lunchroom that prefer to receive our news events by reading an actual paper.  It's not electronic.  You have to unfold it and then physically turn pages with your hands, not just repeatedly swipe some tiny screen.  It can't reach the internet and download stuff.  It won't play games with you, unless you consider the crossword or word jumble.  As I sat in the lunchroom with my Chicago Tribune, all these kids around me have food in one hand and their phones in the other.  Now I'm not against technology, (I do author a website) but I felt like I was holding a stone tablet and wearing mom jeans.  There's a lot more gray in my chin stubble these days, and these young bastards are making me feel old.  Yet I will remain youthful by eating healthy meals made from scratch from good ingredients that are whole and not processed.  You punks can read your kindles and drink your Monsters for lunch and microwave those frozen preservative-packed meals to eat.  I prefer a different route.

This is a tasty and somewhat light summer meal, for having pasta and prosciutto and butter, cheese and oil.  Thank the lemon and arugula.  There's plenty of arugula in the garden the rabbits haven't discovered yet, and this recipe is a delicious way to enjoy the produce.  Arugula and lemon are good friends.  Pig parts get along with everything, the thinly sliced prosciutto is added to the pasta at the last minute to highlight it's flavor. 

Important notes for this recipe- 
wash your leeks very well, dirt loves to hide in all them layers. 
use the real deal parmigiano reggiano, there is no compromise when it comes to parm
you don't have to spend $24/lb on prosciutto di parma, the normal stuff will do
if you cannot find pappardelle, fettuccine or another fat ass noodle can sub

Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Arugula
4 servings

3/4 lb pappardelle
2 TB unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and pale green part only, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 ts grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1/4 finely chopped fresh chives
4-5 C fresh arugula, thick stems removed, large leaves torn in half
3/4 C freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
 Freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt
4 oz. prosciutto, sliced into 1" pieces

Cook the pappardelle in a large pot of salted water until al dente, probably a minute or two before the box tells you it's done.  Reserve 2 C of the cooking liquid when draining. 

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for about 6-7 minutes until soft but not browned.  Add in the garlic during the last minute.  

Add the pasta, most of the chives, 2 ts lemon zest, and 1 C of the pasta cooking water to the skillet and stir well to combine.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring, until you have a nice sauce coating the pappardelle.  You may need a couple more 1/4 C additions of pasta water if things look too dry, there should be plenty available.

Add the arugula and 1/2 C of parmigiano reggiano, season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine.  Fold in the prosciutto and stir again.  Serve onto plates or shallow bowls with more grated cheese, the rest of the chives and a touch of lemon zest.