Monday, July 12, 2010

Shrimp and Pasta Stir-fry

I picked up some bok choy at the farmer's market on Saturday, so today I had to do something with it. Usually, this means a stir-fry. What a stir-fry usually seems to mean, is chicken and rice. I wanted to do something a bit different today--not to mention faster, considering pasta takes about ten minutes to cook and rice takes thirty or forty.

I cooked some liguine according to package directions:

Drained it, and set it aside:

Meanwhile, I heated a bit of sesame oil in a large pan:

Added diced onion and garlic:

And cooked:

until brown.

I then added some shrimp (kindly shelled by the Darling Devoted Husband):

and cut in half, since they were big little guys.

 Next, I added white wine vinegar:

oyster sauce and bottled ginger:

and soy sauce:

 Then, the bok choy:


 and cooked for three minutes or so, until the bok choy was wilted and the shrimp were cooked.

I then added the pasta and thought I'd be done:

Unfortunately, it was pretty bland--the pasta and watery bok choy had diluted the flavor cooked into the shrimp.

So I heated a spoonful of honey until liquid:

Added some oyster sauce:

Another dollop of bottled ginger:

And some more soy sauce:

 Whisked it together with a fork, and drizzled it over the stir fry:

This worked perfectly, and the sauce itself (I licked the cup) was amazing. It would make a great dipping sauce for potstickers.
This would be great with broccoli, snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo, mushrooms--any vegetable you can make work in an Asian context. Chicken or beef could be substituted for the shrimp, or you could leave out the meat (and the oyster sauce) to make it vegetarian.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Soup

Soup is normally a cold-weather, winter sort of dish. It's warm and comforting when it's cold outside--not usually something you want to eat when it's hot.

Today, however, it was pouring. I nearly drowned driving home. I couldn't get to the gym because the roads were flooded. I was cold(ish) and wet and warm, simple soup sounded like the best plan for dinner.

For a summer soup, you need summer ingredients: yellow squash and zucchini, mysterious long beans, tomatoes, and chicken.

I cooked the chicken until done in a large pan with a splash of olive oil:

and garlic:

Then added the sliced squash, beans (cut in half), a can of tomato soup, a can of water, and a can of diced tomatoes:

Brought it to a boil (and this is where the chicken got dry, I suspect: I cooked it too long. Should've just brought it to a boil and called it good):

Finally, the rain paused, and I dashed outside to grab some basil to top it off.

The chicken was a bit dry, but other than that, the soup was just what I was hoping for: fresh, light summer flavor in a warm, rainy-day comfort food. Success!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Spaghetti

Of all the dishes I cook, pasta is the one I make most often. I'm always fiddling and fooling with my sauces and pastas. The variations range from minimalist (diced tomatoes and garlic) to rich (alfredo sauces) to just plain weird (macaroni and tuna fish, spaghetti with fennel and sardines).

I like all of them. The Dear Devoted Husband, however, has--to put it nicely--mixed feelings about some of these experiments. Really, all he wants from life is a thick meat sauce, emphasis on the meat. A jar of meaty Ragu would suit him just fine.

So, every once in a while, I cater to his tastes, and just make a spaghetti with meat sauce. (Un)fortunately, I can't seem to make a pasta dish without fiddling with it somehow.

Today I present Summer Spaghetti--a meat sauce, yes, but a late-June-ramping-up-into-the-height-of-farmers'-market-season meat sauce. There's meat in this sauce--slightly more than a pound of hamburger from Downing Family Farm--but that is most certainly not all.

Ingredients: Fennel, canned tomato sauce, tomatoes, Czech Broadleaf garlic, summer squash, zucchini, onion, basil, oregano, hamburger, olive oil, and spaghetti (the basil and oregano are mine; everything else, excluding the canned sauce, olive oil, and spaghetti, was acquired at the Cherry Street Farmers' Market):

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet:

Add one young onion and several cloves garlic, chopped:

Add about one pound of ground beef (I could get by with less, but the DDH insists this is the perfect amount):

Meanwhile, boil some water and add spaghetti:

Cook according to package directions.

Drain the spaghetti once cooked:

Chop the summer squash, zucchini (one small of each):

and fennel (maybe a quarter or half of a large bulb):

When the ground beef is cooked through, drain:

 Add another splash of olive oil to the skillet:

Add the summer squash, zucchini, and fennel to the skillet:

Then add some tomatoes:

If using grape tomatoes, like here, you can toss them in whole; larger cherry or full-sized tomatoes could be chopped first. If you prefer the tomatoes to be incorporated into the sauce smoothly, you can chop the grape tomatoes, but I love warm whole little tomatoes like that.

Cover and let cook on low:

while you tear the basil and oregano leaves and some fennel fronds:

Once the tomatoes and squashes have softened, add the cooked beef:

tomato sauce:

and herbs:

 Add the cooked spaghetti:

And mix well to coat:

Serve with a salad (here, greens, cherry tomatoes, fennel, and balsamic vinegar):

And enjoy.

The sauce definitely consisted of more than meat and pureed tomatoes, but neither of us complained. The DDH did not quietly push any little vegetable pieces to the side of his plate; he didn't make a face and say, "No, it's good, just...what's in it?" It's good. It's spaghetti. With meat sauce. And it's delicious.

A Note: The DDH has put up with my farmers' market habit for a little more than a year now, usually quite patiently, but he did raise an eyebrow when I started branching out into getting meat there. The hamburger here is quite a bit more expensive than at Sam's Club. When eating this meal, however, he kept remarking on how delicious the meat is:

 'Cause it is. So I think it's worth it, at least sometimes.

Yum yum yum.


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