Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Well friends, I've returned. I can only hope that there are still a few of you reading and that I haven't alienated everyone with my absence. In the past few weeks I've eaten many bowls of ramen (both packaged and homemade) and oodles of take-out. It's during these embarrassing lapses in gastronomic judgment (and long motherly visits) that it becomes clear how important it is that I cook for myself. Not only is it healthier for me, but too much time spent away from my kitchen appears to make me somewhat feverish. Every commercial break becomes an opportunity to visit my kitchen, even if that visit serves no purpose but to remind me that I have fabulous new pots and pans. By the next commercial I get up and survey the fridge, taking stock of my freezer's contents while nervously tapping my foot. The third visit is just embarrassing and involves a great deal of pacing and the opening and closing of a few dozen jars.
I won't go into the visits that follow, but rest assured, they are--as can be expected--increasingly pathetic. Now that I finally have the freedom and time to resume my regularly scheduled cooking, I've been craving various summer delights. More specifically, I've been craving the kind of food that reminds me of the exotic vacation destinations that I'll never get to because I'm so busy. I'd recently purchased some delicious fresh shrimp to make for my mom, but laziness ensued following a bout with torrential rain storms. So, I put them in the freezer and made a mental note to include them in my summer getaway fantasy meals. Yesterday was finally the day I got to re-enter my kitchen, and having gotten home early, I tried to tie myself to the couch until dinner time. It proved more difficult than I expected to sit still in the two hours before dinner. My frequent visits to the kitchen resumed, as did the pacing and incessant jar opening.
Finally, the time came to cook (albeit about an hour earlier than it should have) and I started planning my meal. I was in the mood for a pasta dish, the kind you might see on the menu of a seaside trattoria and wash down with a chilly glass of white wine. I originally decided on some kind of scampi, but found the idea boring, so I used it as a jumping off point for a saffron sauce. It all started as a basic scampi with lots of garlic and red pepper flake, but then I added the shrimp, some sun-dried tomato, white wine and pasta water. After that cooked down a bit, I added some saffron to the sauce for a lovely golden color and fragrant aroma, along with some lemon juice for some brightness. A few bits of parsley later and my kitchen smelled like a seaside paradise. I tossed in the angel hair, which quickly absorbed all of the sauce and topped it off with two lemon wedges for some extra summer pop. It was exactly the meal I was hoping for, and much to my waist's chagrin, I ate the entire two person portion. I just tell myself that even though I'm stuffed and saffron is an extravagance, I've saved several thousands of dollars in airfare to Italy. Here's the final recipe:
Saffron Scented Angel Hair with Shrimp and Sun-dried Tomatoes
1/2 package dried angel hair pasta
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, slivered
10-12 shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup white wine
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1/16 of a tsp (or 4-5 strands) saffron
2 tablespoons parsley
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Heat the olive oil, garlic and sun-dried tomato on medium low in a large, deep skillet. When the garlic become fragrant, add the red pepper flake and shrimp, seasoning with salt to taste.
3. Add pasta to water and cook according to package directions.
4. When the shrimp are pink but still raw in the center, add wine and cover with a lid for 30 seconds. Remove the lid and add pasta water and saffron (it will look like a lot of sauce, but the pasta will absorb most of it). Cook until shrimp are done, then add lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper and angel hair. Toss to coat and top with lemon wedges. Enjoy!