Working With What You Have: Cooking Together
DISH: Egg Pasta with Shrimp, Saffron, and Peas
TYPE: Cozy Dinner For 2
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Shrimp, Noodles
Alex and I don’t eat dinner together that much because of busy schedules and whatnot, but we have gotten into a nice rhythm when we do. Though I most often do the cooking, he takes part in the meal planning and ingredient acquisition. Sometimes, as I mentioned in my post on Chana Bateta, he’ll actually give me a food related gift: a new set of spices, in that case, or some good quality olive oil, in others, but in the end he’s not a guest, obligated to bring a bottle of wine. Our dinners are shared events. Alex does actually cook, for himself many nights–or for me, most recently, a wonderful Greek roast chicken with potatoes. In the end, cooking together is prevented by the fact that that my kitchen is literally big enough only for one.
Sometimes, when we’ll be eating together and I’m unsure of what I’m craving, I look to Alex for the inspiration that my fridge and pantry doesn’t seem to be giving me. I’ll give him a rundown of ingredients on g-chat, and then he’ll offer up a suggestion. Fortunately, what he wants often satisfies me too; that he likes potatoes, beans, quinoa, and other simple preparations makes it easy to cook for him without going out to shop. Though he’s perhaps less meat-centric than many men, he can be just as veggie averse.
For example, once when I’d made an enormous pot of borrachos from Last Night’s Dinner’s recipe on Food52 (see above), I carried two servings of it over to his apartment in tupperware. Then we made the accompanying cornbread out of his pantry’s ingredients—only I brought the egg, as he had run out. We had warm cornbread and warmed borrachos, and it was delicious, very much a joint effort. What’s more, two people can fit in his kitchen, so while I measured and mixed, he poured the beans into a pot with some extra water and heated them through.
One Friday night, Alex had a long day of work. I’d had a long day of writing and mozzeralla sandwich eating, and I had no clue what I wanted to eat, nor was I all that hungry. He called from Grand Central before he got on the train to give me the items in his fridge: spinach, about to go bad, he reported, and frozen shrimp. Excellent.
You can use pre-shelled, pre-cleaned shrimp. Then, substitute pasta water for the quick shrimp broth (you’ll have to make the pasta slightly earlier than otherwise, but it’s no big deal, since it reheats in the sauce anyway).
1 pound medium shrimp, shell on
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 bag fresh baby spinach
juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons butter (optional)
1 batch fresh egg pasta, below, or purchased fresh fettucine
Peel the shrimp. Combine the shrimp shells and 1 cup of water in a small stockpot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 10-15 minutes, while you do the other prep work. Strain, discarding the shells, and stir in the saffron until it dissolves. Set aside.
Bring a pot of very salted water to the boil for the pasta.
In a large pan, saute the garlic and shallots over low heat until just golden. Add the red pepper flakes a minute or two in. Add the wine and salt, turning the heat up slightly. Let the wine cook nearly off, then add the shrimp-saffron stock you’ve just made. Bring to a boil, then throw in the peas and the shrimp. Stir to mix everything together, then cook for about 30 seconds. Finally, add the spinach (this will fill up the pot), and toss everything together. Lower the heat and cover the pot for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted and the shrimp is cooked through. Taste for salt and add any more as needed
Make the pasta about when you add the shrimp and peas—fresh pasta only needs a minute or two to cook. Drain, reserving a little bit of water in case the sauce seems dry.
Stir the pasta into the pot of shrimp and vegetables, and toss to distribute all the ingredients. Stir in the butter, if using, then serve immediately in big bowls sprinkled with a few extra red pepper flakes.