Sunday, August 16, 2009
I'm FINALLY feeling like I'm on vacation.
I can feel it in my shoulders and neck.
I can see it in the brownness of my skin.
When I look in the mirror in the morning, there is, more often than not, a woman smiling back at me who isn't furrowing her brow and worrying about what she has on her calendar today. Hell, she doesn't even know where her calendar is. Nor, in fact, does she care, particularly!
We had some house guests for the weekend - friends of ours who happen to be members of the church (Yeah, I know. That's not supposed to happen. Sorry, it does, and I'm glad and blessed and richer for it.).
They brought their five year old and 8 month old with them, and it was an absolute delight to have them here.
Yesterday, we spent the entire day on the beach. It's great to have friends who love the beach as much as we do.
We got home and after everyone showered, I convinced them that we really shouldn't go out to a restaurant so they could buy us dinner. That the kids would be ever so much happier to eat whatever they wanted to eat and then off to bed to sleep the sleep that comes when you've had the sun on your face and sand in body crevices that were never designed to have sand in them.
That I really, really wanted to cook for them. Thank God, they finally believed me.
So, here's my favorite summer recipe which I have made in the dead of winter but, you know, it just doesn't taste the same as when the vegetables and seafood are fresh.
I often make this with two pounds of fresh seafood - usually a mixture of shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams, but the place I usually shop would only recommend the shrimp, so that's what I used. Yup, two whole pounds of it.
First, heat up some EVO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) in a large pan. Add to that a small handful of fennel seeds and crushed red pepper and allow it to heat through, infusing the oil with the taste of the fennel and pepper.
Then, saute in a large chopped onion and grate in a few large heads of garlic.
While that cooks, begin chopping three large bell peppers - green, red and yellow or orange. I like my peppers cut length wise, but you can do whatever you want.
Add those to the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
While that cooks, start boiling the water for the pasta. I like to use whole grain pasta. This dish cooks up well with thin or thick pasta, but not angel hair or something like rigatoni or ziti.
While the water heats up, start getting the seafood ready. I shelled the (large) shrimp which I saute in just a thin coat of EVO and then add white wine, salt and pepper, cooking only until they turn pink.
Now add some fresh tomatoes to the peppers - remove the skin by sinking them into some Very Hot water which will 'pucker' the skin and make it really easy to remove. As a short cut, you can use a large can of whole tomatoes. You can dice them or pour them into the pan, squashing them with a masher.
Add salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Then add the shrimp and allow the mixture to simmer on low.
While that's simmering, cook the pasta just a little shy of al dente - probably about six minutes.
After the pasta is cooked, drain it and then return it to the pan. Add some butter - a good healthy 'plop' - and then sprinkle generously with some grated cheese: Parmesan, Romano, etc. Mix well.
Now, add the peppers and seafood mixture to the pasta, mixing it up well.
Pour the whole thing onto a serving platter, sprinkling it all with a little grated cheese and some chopped parsley and basil. It 'presents' beautifully.
Serve with a good, hearty bread (which I served with a yummy black olive tampanade instead of butter) and your favorite wine - red or white will compliment this very well, but I like a very light white like a good California Sauvignon Blanc or a red like a Malbac.
I don't often have time to cook like this for my friends, having them hang out in the kitchen with me, helping me chop the vegetables, drinking wine while we cook together.
To be able to do this was an incredible gift to me. The 'oooh's' and 'aaahh's' were simply angelic, heavenly music to my ears.
We ate out in the enclosed porch (Ms. Conroy calls it the "Florida Room" but I call it the "Delaware Room') which is on the water. From time to time, boats went by and we waved and smiled as we talked about things of absolutely no importance to the church or the world.
Our friends ate seconds and thirds. I'm having the left overs for dinner tonight.
At least, that's the plan. Which may change.
Because, you know, I'm on vacation.