Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

Photo8J4Z47TN
When cell phones came out, I was the last one on the block to finally get one. And 11 years later, I finally got my own smart phone–the last one on the block again. Since March, I’ve been checking out these sites I’ve only heard about, Instagram being one of them. With Instagram, I can follow friends and celebrities by the photos of their lives. One of the people I follow is Amanda Hesser, former New York Times food writer who, with Merrill Stubbs, is the cofounder and CEO of Food52. A few weeks ago, she posted a photo of her first al fresco dinner, pasta with shrimp, lemon, garlic, and asparagus, with rose wine on ice. I had to make this! It looked delicious and what better way to welcome the warmer weather!

This recipe can almost fit into my Week Night Dinner Series and in fact, I did make it on a weeknight! Fresh shrimp sautéed with garlic and lemon, crunchy asparagus, a topping of freshly grated cheese, it was heaven in a bowl, and I had to resist taking a second helping. (The Eater of the House, on the other hand, obviously loved it. He finished it off—no leftovers for lunch!)

A delicious dinner was had that evening, alas indoors. This time of year, pop up rain showers and storms come along and can cancel all outdoor plans you may have for the evening. But no matter, it was still delicious and that’s what really counts. There is nary a raindrop on the forecast for tonight, so maybe I’ll make it again!

pasta pic
Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

For those gluten-intolerant, substitute white beans for the pasta. For those with shellfish allergies or vegetarians who don’t eat seafood, substitute white beans for the shrimp!

A couple teaspoons of olive oil and butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
¾ pound shrimp, fresh or frozen fresh (I used jumbo)
A couple splashes of dry white wine or vermouth (optional)
Crushed red pepper for heat (if desired)
3+ cups asparagus, chopped into about 2 inch pieces
½ pound (half a box) gemelli or penne pasta (you can really use whatever type of pasta you like)
The juice of one-half lemon
Slivered fresh basil
Grated cheese

1. In a medium-sized skillet, heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil and butter and melt gently. Add the garlic and shallot and cook just a minute or two, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink. Add a little bit of wine and crushed red pepper, if using.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Set the timer and cook for about eight minutes. When there are two minutes left, add the asparagus and cook for the remaining two minutes. Drain well.

3. Add the pasta and asparagus to a serving dish, add the shrimp and toss gently. Add the juice of a half lemon and top with freshly grated cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

provenceProvence 1970 by Luke Barr
Ah, to spend just a few hours in the company of M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Richard Olney in Provence, cooking and talking about food. And Luke Barr takes us there.

It’s not all bread and roses for these four stalwarts of the cooking world, as each were at their own personal turning point in their lives. Child and Beck are at odds, coming to a point in their professional relationship that they must sever the ties, while neither one wants to make the first move. Beard is nearby at a health spa, trying desperately to lose the weight that is impeding his health. And M.F.K. Fisher is at crossroads in her life; live in France or return to her beloved California.

It took me a while to get into this. I found in the beginning Barr’s voice was too loud, a somewhat pretentious writer (this probably has everything to do with the fact I listened to an interview with him a while back). But soon, I got lost in the story of these writers and cooks and enjoyed being at the dinner table, as well as enjoying the occasional visits from Judith Jones and Elizabeth David: Beard and Child’s renowned cookbook editor and the grande dame of English cooking. When the dining editor of the New York Times left, it was interesting to see all the speculation of who would take over the position. Talk about a who’s who of gossip!

To read books like this, with a deep look at the past with a nod to the future, always fascinates me. Child was just beginning her cooking show, and was at the start of her immense popularity. Beard, while ill for many years due to his health, lived for at least 15 more, continued to write cookbooks, many of them quite famous. Fisher continued to write and publish memoirs and cookbooks, as did Olney. But looking back on December, 1970, in Provence, the world was still open and free, with endless possibilities.

Crab Cakes with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

It's finally GREEN outside!

It’s finally GREEN outside!

No more talk about cold weather, it is finally spring! The crabapple trees are flowering, the lilacs are in bloom, I’ve been hiking, and the lawn has been mowed twice!

I made these crab cakes a couple of weeks ago, and I think they are restaurant quality–or at least guest quality! So, a story. I was excited to find a pound of crabmeat in the fish section of the supermarket for $10. And it wasn’t until I looked at the label, and noticed it was claw meat, not lump crabmeat. That container was another $10. I’d definitely splurge if serving guests, but if it’s just dinner for the family, the claw meat is a good, less expensive substitute. Perhaps not as flavorful, but it was still delicious.

So being springtime, before it gets too warm, make a batch of these and have an al fresco evening with crab cakes atop fresh lettuce and a crisp glass of white wine. You won’t be sorry!

clamcakes
Crab Cakes with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 2 crab cakes and 2 tablespoons dressing)

Crab cakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Dressing
1/3 cup whole buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, divided
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill, divided
Bibb lettuce leaves

Preparation

1. To prepare crab cakes, combine first 6 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in panko. Add crabmeat; stir gently to combine. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes.

2. Divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions; gently shape each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 4 patties to pan; cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove patties from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and remaining 4 patties.

3. To prepare dressing, combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients (through garlic), stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, 3/4 teaspoon parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon dill. Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter; top with crab cakes. Spoon dressing over crab cakes; sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chives, remaining 3/4 teaspoon parsley, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon dill.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
phototjs
I feel as if I’m the last person in the country who has never been to a Trader Joe’s grocery store—until last weekend! For months, I’ve been waiting with excitement for the first Trader Joe’s to open in Vermont. Crazy me, because my day plans had changed, I went up on Day Two at 1 p.m., prime lunch hour! And thought I would do a week’s worth of grocery shopping! It was incredibly busy, with people more window shopping than food shopping, but I made it through the aisles and wasn’t disappointed. Prices were extremely fair and I ended up getting most everything on my list! I also like that there isn’t a lot of variety; even though I love food and love to cook, sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the choices for just one product in the grocery store. The location is away from my regular route, but I have a feeling I’ll be taking the long way home and stopping by after work during the week to get groceries!