I finally got to do some real cooking. I haven’t done much of that recently, what with us being empty nesters and all—both working, dogs and cats pretty much at war with each other, and my nicely blossoming indoor orchard of citrus trees. And then there’s the pending living-room remodel.
Sometimes there just isn’t much time left for real cooking. You know the kind I mean—where I actually get to start with making a stock, where I layer in the flavors thoughtfully one at a time, where I actually start with a found recipe and adjust and adapt it to my personal style and preference. Plus, since I’m now 50 pounds lighter than I was 11 months ago and plan to keep it that way, the choices I have from on-hand supplies is a bit different. Butter and flour as main ingredients aren’t much in the plan any more, so flavors and textures come from other, more creative places.
So there I was on a Friday evening, sipping quietly on a syrupy Zinfandel, and thinking through my dinner prep plan (yes, Virginia, we actual trained cooks think and make a plan).
Tonight’s menu was built around a tasty shrimp and white-bean stew with fresh basil and lemon zest, and a surprise. And it meant actually cooking!
Heaven in a kitchen.
E thought it was pretty good. I thought it was one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time. So good that I just had to write about it here, I haven’t been so inspired in a while, but tonight’s dish just struck that chord—definitely a major-seventh in D. I hope you’ll try this one. It’s a winner!
SHRIMP AND WHITE-BEAN STEW
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 pound jumbo shell-on shrimp (21-26 count), peeled, deveined, and tails removed, shells reserved
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans (1 can drained and rinsed, 1 can left undrained)
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 garlic cloves, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
1. Dissolve sugar and 1 tablespoon salt in 1 quart cold water in large container. Submerge shrimp in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
2. While the shrimp is brining, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn spotty brown and skillet starts to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add 1 cup water. When bubbling subsides, return skillet to medium heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through colander set over large bowl. Discard shells and reserve liquid (you should have about 1/4 cup). Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion, garlic, anchovies, pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in now-empty skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 can drained beans, 1 can beans and their liquid, tomatoes, and shrimp stock and bring to simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to low, add shrimp, cover, and cook, stirring once during cooking, until shrimp are just opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and serve.
4 oz. flat rice noodles
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
6 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Thai chili peppers or 2 teaspoons Asian red garlic-chili paste
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced fine
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/2 container extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped and divided
2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1. Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water; let stand until noodles are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
2. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, carrots, scallions, chili peppers, and garlic, and stir fry until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Add fish sauce, brown sugar, and soy sauce, stir fry until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Add noodles, sprouts, half the cilantro, and tofu. Toss gently to mix all the ingredients and coat everything with sauce and heated through, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining cilantro and peanuts.
Serve either hot or at room temperature.
Serving: 1 cup
I have a weakness for Asian dishes, and I’m always looking to learn new ones. Perhaps my all-time favorite Asian recipe is Pad Thai. I can’t get enough of this dish, but traditionally, made in Thai restaurants, the calorie count is measured in the billions. Having recently joined Weight Watchers, I now have to “skinny down” some of my faves. What I’ll present here is an absolutely wonderful rendering of this Thai favorite, but beaten into submission. This low calorie version has everything you could ask for in this dish, and yet has a much better PointsPlus value than traditional chicken Pad Thai recipes. It’s a great healthy meal idea to help satisfy your craving for Thai food, while still keeping you on track with Weight Watchers.
Pad Thai with Chicken
6 oz chicken skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
4 oz dried rice noodles
1/4 cup egg beaters
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp peanut oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tbsp chopped dry-roasted peanuts
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce
1. In a large bowl, soak rice noodles in warm water until they are limp and white, about 30 minutes.
2. Heat oil over high heat in a wok until very hot. Add the shallots and garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 10 seconds.
3. Add the egg and cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry until mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
4. Drain the noodles and add to the wok, tossing with tongs until they soften and curl, about 1 minute.
Add bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar , salt and chile-garlic sauce; toss until the chicken is fully cooked and noodles are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Sprinkle with peanuts and serve immediately.
Cooking time (duration): 45
Serving size: 1 cup