Penne with Shrimp and Arugula is a satisfying meal that comes together in minutes. Recipe below.
Let me start by saying thank you, Mark Bittman. Last week, the New York Times’ Minimalist ran a piece called “Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.” Kristen over at Gezellig Girl immediately announced her new purpose in life was to cook all 101 recipes. And everywhere around the globe, I’m sure printouts were magnet-nailed to refrigerator doors like so many copies of a modern-day Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. [Okay, how many of you were awake that day in high school Western Civ class?]
Myself, I took a printout of the article to the supermarket on the way home from work the other day. There were a couple/few ideas I was ready to try immediately, and I needed the list at hand as I checked out ingredient availabilities.
Mr. Bittman’s 101 simple meals aren’t so much recipes as they are basic approaches. The one I settled on that evening at the store read, in its entirety, “11. Warm olive oil in a skillet with at least three cloves sliced garlic. When the garlic colors, add at least a teaspoon each of cumin and pimentón. A minute later, add a dozen or so shrimp, salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley, serve with lemon and bread.”
Sounds pretty wonderful as is, right? But as I started thinking about possible sides to go with this, I decided instead to expand on this simple dish and turn it into a meal. Here’s how I did it.
First, I wanted something green. The arugula looked good, and its peppery kick sounded like it would play well with the garlic and spices. Suddenly, this was sounding like a pasta sauce. So along came the penne and I had a dinner planned.
A quick note about the spice combination. I expected the cumin to give the dish a decidedly Indian taste—or at least a distinctly cumin flavor. But together, the smoked paprika and cumin create a delicious, complex, slightly mysterious taste without either taking over. They also gave the shrimp and the pasta a beautiful, deep color.
Penne with Shrimp and Arugula
3 – 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika [pimentón]
1 teaspoon cumin
2/3-pound medium-sized uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined [see Kitchen Notes]
4 cups fresh arugula
4 – 5 ounces uncooked penne pasta [see Kitchen Notes]
Start a pot of water for the pasta as you prep the other ingredients. When the water comes to a boil, salt it generously, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When pasta is seven minutes or so from being done, warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook ’til it colors, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove garlic from oil with slotted spoon and reserve.
Add paprika and cumin to pan and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and cook through, about 4 minutes, turning halfway through. Turn off heat. Stir in garlic and arugula. Drain pasta, add to pan and toss thoroughly to coat pasta with sauce and wilt arugula. Divide between two plates and serve.
Shrimp—details, details. Okay, what’s with leaving the tails on? I understand it when the shrimp is finger food—it gives you a little handle to grab onto. But increasingly, I’m seeing chefs and cooking mags do it in everything from gumbos and paellas to pasta dishes. And yes, in the photos, it looks elegant, giving you a sense of the original creature from which it came. But all that elegance evaporates the moment you either have to fish the shrimp from the dish with your fingers to remove the tail or go at it with a knife and fork. We’re making dinner here, not extra work for our guests. Remove the tails, please.
Pasta. I used penne because that’s what I had on hand. It worked well with the dish, both in appearance and in eating it. Farfalle [we call it bowtie pasta, but it actually translates much more poetically from the original Italian into butterflies] would be absolutely beautiful in this dish.
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