Monday, September 23, 2013

Shrimp Scampi Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

I love this dish. I love that it was super easy to make. I love that it was delicious, filling, and felt fancy.  I love that I spent less than $10 on a meal for the husband and I.

The shrimp scampi portion of this dish is from the simply wonderful Simply Recipes.  This part can't be any easier to make.  Defrost some frozen shrimp, heat up some butter and olive oil, add garlic and red pepper flakes, add shrimp and white wine, and let wine cook out. After the wine cooks out, you are done. I wanted to make sure that we used good, fresh butter so I picked up some KerryGold Garlic and Herb Butter from the store.  Because the butter had garlic, we didn't end up adding any garlic to the dish which was a mistake. The KerryGold Garlic and Herb butter was delicious but both of us noted that the dish could have used a bit more garlic. So toss in some minced up garlic no matter what. It was important to me that we used good, fresh butter because nothing ruins a dish more than using butter that has been sitting in the fridge and is tainted with the aroma of other food.

The roasted cauliflower could not have worked any better mixed up with the pasta and the shrimp.  Since we have been trying to cut back on our pasta intake and up our vegetable intake, roasted cauliflower has been a bit of a savior. It is delicious without over-powering a dish and it blends in well with simple pasta dishes.  I love roasting the cauliflower until the edges burn a bit. The cauliflower gets sweet which pairs great with the savory flavors of the shrimp scampi.

How did we make this dish for under $10, you ask?  All items were purchased at Harris Teeter and pretty much all on sale. The frozen shrimp was on sale for 50% off and we only used half a bag.  The KerryGold Butter was on sale for $1 per stick.  The Dreamfields low-carb pasta was $2.79 for a box and we cooked up 1/3 of it. The cauliflower was $2.99.  The parsley was from my herb garden and the white wine was a gift from a friend.  

Shrimp Scampi Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of Cauliflower
Canola oil (we use canola oil spray)
1 pound large shrimp, shelled
2 tablespoons olive oil 
6 tablespoons of KerryGold butter 
1 Tbsp minced garlic 1/2  
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/2 cup white wine 
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley 
Cooked Spaghetti
Freshly ground black pepper to taste 

Heat oven to 350F.  Cut up cauliflower into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces and place on cookie sheet.  Coat with a spray of canola oil and place in hot oven.  Roast for 20 minutes. Stir cauliflower around and then roast for another 20-35 minutes or until the edges of the cauliflower have browned. Turn off oven and open up the oven to let some of the heat out.  Close oven and keep cauliflower warm in the oven until the pasta is ready.

Defrost shrimp and pat dry.  Heat up olive oil in a skillet (medium heat) and add butter.  Once the butter starts to foam, add the minced garlic and the red pepper flakes.  Cook for about two minutes or until the garlic browns a bit.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink.  Add white wine and cook on high for 3 minutes. Flip shrimp and cook for another minute. Toss in chopped up parsley.  Place cooked spaghetti in a platter and pour shrimp and liquids on top. Add roasted cauliflower. Salt and pepper to taste and toss everything together. Enjoy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vernick's Minty Peas and Bacon on Toast

On a trip to Philly awhile back, Marshall and I got to visit a restaurant called Vernick and had one of the best meals we had ever eaten.  The restaurant aims for "simple yet refined cooking" and they hit the nail on the head.  Everything was prepared with careful hands and the presentation was impeccable.  Every dish was memorable.

One dish in particular held a special place in Marshall's heart: Peas and Bacon on Toast.  The pureed peas had a hint of mint and the creamy mixture was spread over toasted, good bread and topped with the thinnest pieces of fried bacon.  Marshall tried to replicate the dish for dinner one night but his experiment didn't work. It didn't have the right amount of mint and wasn't as creamy as what we ate at Vernick.

To Marshall's (and my) delight, Food and Wine Magazine printed the recipe for these delicious toasts and we found out what we missed in the experiment. We didn't have cream cheese.  Cream cheese added a bit of tang and really rounded out the flavor of the peas.  We made the peas and bacon toasts as instructed and we have one edit to the recipe.  It is pretty tough to get bacon cut as thin as they have theirs cut so we suggest frying or baking the bacon until it is crisp.  Then place the bacon on top of the puree and broil it carefully so that some of the fat from the bacon drips onto the toast. Make sure the bacon doesn't burn.  Enjoy.

1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves, plus chopped mint for garnish
Kosher salt
Cayenne pepper
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of sourdough bread
Extra-virgin olive oil, preferably fruity, for brushing and garnish
12 thin bacon slices (6 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, combine the peas with the butter, cream cheese and the 1/4 cup of mint. Pulse until nearly smooth; season the pea butter with salt and cayenne. Brush the bread with olive oil and arrange the slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the bread in the oven for about 8 minutes, turning once, until lightly golden but still chewy in the center. Transfer the toasts to a work surface; leave the oven on. Spread each toast with about 1/4 cup of the pea butter and top with 3 slices of bacon. Arrange the toasts on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until the bacon just starts to render. Turn on the broiler and broil the toasts 6 inches from the heat for about 3 minutes, until the bacon starts to brown. Garnish the toasts with olive oil and chopped mint and serve warm.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finding Pho in Downtown DC

Skimming through my twitter feed in the middle of a work week, I often see a posting that either says "Ugh, I could really use a bowl of pho right now" or "If only there was a pho delivery service."  If you work in downtown DC, the closest quality, soul-warming bowl of pho is in Rosslyn at Pho 75 or in Columbia Heights at Pho 14. (And if you know of a location that has spectacular pho in downtown DC, please leave a comment and let me know where you had it. I have yet to find it.)

The only way for me to have a good bowl of pho for lunch during the work week is if:

1) I bring it myself.

The broth is packed separately from the noodles and the meat. The broth is heated up using the microwave and then noodles and meat are placed in afterwards and then microwaved some more though not too much as the noodles expand and suck up the broth and ruin your bowl of pho. This is a delicate process. Plan to hog the microwave from co-workers for at least 15 minutes. Also, prepare to face any wrath for making the office will smell of pho.

2) I buy it from a food truck.

Working near a major park where food trucks can park is a big perk.  On a regular basis, I have a variety of great food steps away from my office.  There are three pho food trucks that I have seen around DC; PhoNation, Pho Wheels, and Pho Junkies.

My co-worker Kevin loves PhoNation and regularly visits them on Fridays when they are parked at Farragut Square (which, by the way, if you are in your twenties and single, Farragut Square is a great place to lunch on Fridays. Young folks everwhere. It is like going to club but in daylight. "Hey honey, can I buy you a Curbside cupcake?") 

I was really skeptical about eating pho from a food truck but I must admit that the pho from PhoNation is good.  The broth has a strong, beefy flavor and you can taste a hint of spices in the broth.  The noodles are not gummy nor are they undercooked.  PhoNation has a really organized system; noodles are heated up and placed into a plastic container, the meat, onions, and cilantro are added on top, and the broth is kept heated in a dispenser so that it is easy to pour into the plastic container. The basil, slice of lime, slices of jalapeno, and sprouts are packaged neatly in a little baggie for easy pick up. The hoisin sauce and Sriracha chili sauce can be found on the side of the truck where you can pour as much as you like into to-go sauce containers.  The process from ordering, paying, and getting the food is easy and quick.

So until pho shop owners can make like ramen shop owners and open up locations in downtown DC and serve quality bowls of pho, stop by the food trucks and give them a whirl.