October 5, 2015

Here is what we cooked last week:

Monday: Philadelphia for business
Tuesday: The Hartwood – Cottage Pie and Mushroom Risotto
Wednesday: Pirates – brats with sauerkraut at Max’s Allegheny Tavern
Thursday: Linguini with shrimp and lemon oil
Friday: Crostini for Hilda and Tim’s – Great friends, bluefish app from Dick Greenbaum, crostini from yours truly and a wonderful pork loin and fixings from Hilda
Saturday: Octoberfest – Mere and Hoddy’s  more great friends, good food and a technical disquisition on enclosed tents by Hoddy and Duffy.
Sunday: Steak a la Plancha, grilled romaine and grilled shiitake, Mixed berry strata

When I was a kid, pasta meant spaghetti and meatballs, a dish we smothered with whatever particulates Kraft fills their green “parmesan” canisters with.  We loved it.

Well – I have discovered the equivalent of spaghetti and meatballs for adults, without the meatballs:  Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon Oil.

This is another recipe from Giada and is as good as seafood and pasta get.  The lemon oil is made by soaking a bunch of lemon zest in a good olive oil and it is the dominant flavor of the whole dish.  All you have to do, other than that, is get some good shrimp and some decent pasta, and you’re rolling.

Here’s how to put it all together:

Lemon oil:
Zest one lemon and put the zest into ½ C of extra-virgin olive oil.

Other prep:
Zest a second lemon and set aside.
¼ C of lemon juice – 1 or 2 lemons
Dice 2 shallots
Mince 1 or 2 cloves of garlic*
Arugula –you’ll need about 3 packed cups
Chop ¼ cup of parsley

Shrimp :  You’ll need about 1 lb. of cleaned shrimp.  I leave the tails on because they bring a lot of extra flavor to the dish.  Unless your shrimp is just off the boat, whether it’s “fresh” or frozen and thawed, they can be limp.  Here is what you should do to firm them up:  Put them in ice water with a good two pinches of salt for about 30 minutes.  Before cooking, drain and pat each shrimp dry.  (If you haven’t cleaned the shrimp yourself, this is the most difficult part of the dish.)

Before cooking the shrimp, put a large pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil and cook it a little short of recommended time, since you’re going to finish it in a skillet with the shrimp.  Meanwhile . . .

Cooking the shrimp:  Heat 2 TBS of Olive oil over medium heat and, when shimmering, add the diced shallots and minced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes – until they are pink.  I usually turn them about halfway through.

Now drain the pasta but reserve a good 2 or 3 cups of the pasta water.  Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the shrimp.  Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper and toss to combine and distribute the shrimp.  Take off the heat and add the lemon olive oil** and the extra lemon zest.  Add some of the reserved pasta water*** to create a sauce.  Add the chopped parsley and toss and serve.   A salad of tossed greens, some crusty bread and an acidic white wouldn’t hurt

*What is this 1 or 2 cloves of garlic?  Make up your mind.  Well – everyone has a different tolerance for garlic, and some garlic cloves are big, some small.  My general rule is to add the recommended amount of garlic when the garlic will be cooked, but to back off on raw garlic.  You’ll figure it out for yourself.

**Giada pours the olive oil through a sieve, to remove the zest.  I like lemon zest, so I just dumped the oil and zest together into the pasta, along with the other zest.

***You do not need even 2 cups of the reserved water – but if you have someone coming late for dinner, or want to reheat the dish for a second day, you can boil the water and pour some over the pasta which will become loose again, as well as hot.

It was a disappointing week for Pirates fans – I think we should all boycott Chicago, tanking their tourist trade and impoverishing the city so that the owners will have to peddle their best players.  On second thought, let’s work on St. Louis first.

But hey – what a week for cooking, eating, drinking and hanging out with friends.  Every night was a party.

On Tuesday, I drove in from Philadelphia and Beez and I went to the Hartwood, which continues to please.   They pour nice drinks (though serving a martini in those squat, stemless tumblers that have become ubiquitous does a disservice to the drink.  If you take the time to sip it (and you’d better), the heat from your hand will absorb all the chill from the drink.  On the other hand, you have no martini glasses to break or from which to spill the gin.

I had the cottage pie – a favorite of John Stewart’s – a savory concoction of steak, herbs, vegetables and gravy with a mashed potato crust.   It was delicious, though a little more cheese on top and few more seconds under the broiler would have made it perfect.  Beez had a perfect (for me – a little wet for her) mushroom and pea risotto served in an irresistible parmesan shell.  So our last evaluation of The Hartwood stands – get yourself over there.

On Wednesday, before the Pirates game, Tim Hughes and I had a brat with sauerkraut and German mustard and a beer at Max’s Allegheny Tavern.  Max’s is a great, friendly bar, and I can recommend the brat.  As for the other food on the menu – I generally just drink at Max’s.

On Friday, in addition to being with great friends from Pittsburgh and the Eastern shore, we had the best dinner of the week, courtesy of Hilda – a truly wonderful pork roast with fixings.

I still find it difficult to understand how we managed to get up on Saturday morning, but we did and had a ball at Octoberfest at Mere and Hoddy’s – more great friends and good food, followed by a nightcap at the most exclusive bar in the borough – constructed by Stephen Ford, his very self.

Sunday was a belated birthday for Beez.  The berry strata – a sort of Italian bread pudding with berries – was powerfully good.  If you’re lucky, I’ll make it for you sometime.

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