Spaghetti. With Shrimp. In just a few minutes.

Shrimp Pasta

Shrimp Pasta

Okay, I used linguine. But you get the idea. When I was in my twenties in my first NY apartment (studio, 4 floor walk-up) I used to soothe myself from the barrage of NY (a barrage I loved) with sautéed shrimp and angel hair pasta mixed with butter. It sealed up the insanity and made me feel whole again.

That was a long time ago (yet very crystal clear).  But these days I don’t stray too far from that brand of comfort food. Still with the shrimp. Still with the pasta. But minus the butter (olive oil instead). And a couple of added goodies.

Here goes:

First off, I cut the shrimp in half lengthwise it makes a nice shape when cooked and gives you more shrimp to the mouthful. Figure about 1 pound of shrimp to almost a pound of pasta (two-thirds?).



Then I heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan. When hot I sauté the shrimp until opaque, then take them out.

Shrimp on pan

Shrimp in pan

Now add some diced onion and minced garlic to the pan. Let them cook and soften (add some more olive oil if needed). Then add diced up fresh tomato and diced up lemon — including the peel…gives you a nice surprise bite of lemon. Let that sauté till hot.

Onions, Garlic, Tomato, Lemon

Onions, Garlic, Tomato, Lemon

Add about a half-cup of dry white wine…

Add wine

Add wine

Let wine evaporate by half and let the mixture sauté nicely while you start boiling the pasta…

pasta water

pasta water

And making the breadcrumbs. I heat a little oil in a small sauté pan, add about a cup of panko crumbs, season with salt & pepper, and sauté until breadcrumbs brown to deep golden.

browning the breadcrumbs

browning the breadcrumbs

Add the shrimp back to the pan w the onion-garlic-tomato-lemon mixture just as the pasta is almost done. Drain pasta, reserve some cooking liquid, add pasta to pan with shrimp. Toss to coat and to let pasta absorb some of the tasty juices. Add some pasta water if too dry and another drizzle of olive oil. Season to your liking with salt & pepper and a little hot pepper. Add a good dusting of breadcrumbs.

Shrimp w Lingiune

Shrimp w Linguine

I promise you the cares of your day will melt away. This is especially fun eating quietly while watching a favorite, also comforting, TV show. Not the news. A comforting TV show. That makes you giggle. Or draws you into the story and characters. An old movie is perfect. Preferable something from the 1930’s or 40′ or 50’s or early 60’s.

See that? It can be easy to feel good.

Asparagus. Easy. With 3 Levels of Tasty.

Asparagus w 3 Flavors

Asparagus w 3 Flavors

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets nervous if there isn’t a green dish somewhere amongst the dinner menu. I need to have at least one dish that has green in it. Or a whole bowl of green all by itself. Broccoli rabe is my first go-to green. I love Swiss chard, too. String beans. Escarole. Dandelion. And even romaine for a salad.

Then there’s asparagus. What an unusual animal. No other green quite like it. A tall, completely edible (almost), stalk. Ever see how they grow? They rise from the earth like mini-skyscrapers (yet I’m sure they have no interest in going any higher than your knee and even that’s “stretching” it). And, yes, ancient people loved them, too. There’s a recipe for asparagus from Apicius (Roman Empire gourmand with a fondness for recording recipes…thank you!): “…immerse in boiling water backwards,” which reminds me there is even cookware made especially for cooking asparagus (I’ve never used any). Wikipedia just told me that Romans would even freeze asparagus up in the snowy Alps so they’d have plenty for the Feast of Epicurus (no, not the website).

I make asparagus a million different ways. They cook so fast so they pop up as the green at the table often. Here’s one way that gets you asparagus PLUS 3 flavors (1. garlic 2. lemon 3. parmigiano) all in one.

First: peel and slice (thinly) 3-4 cloves of garlic. Heat a little olive oil in a small sauté pan. Add the garlic slices. Sauté till they become deep brown. You’ll be doing what everyone always says “DON’T do.” Cooking garlic to dark brown. Trust me. It becomes chewy and yummy, not bitter. Lift garlic out of oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Don’t throw out the oil.

Rinse and dry a lemon. Cut lemon into 1/4-inch tiny pieces. Peel and all.

Line a sheet pan with foil and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus (or cut them all off in one fell swoop). Lay out the asparagus on the sheet pan in one layer.  Drizzle more olive oil (don’t forget the garlic oil). Sprinkle more salt. And a little pepper. Sprinkle lemon pieces.

Roast in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until tender or crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus and lemon pieces to serving plate and sprinkle golden garlic. Toss to combine. Add a dusting of about 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano.

Oh. Yeah. Enjoy.

About 15 minutes later witness the great mystery that’s been observed since early man. Asparagus pea (yes, I just spelled that wrong. Just couldn’t say the other word around food).

Amaretti Almond Cake w Lemon Glaze Recipe

Amaretti Almond Cake

Amaretti Almond Cake

This cake is a spinoff from another cake that I love. I was inspired by the spiced sliced almonds that my mom gave me. She got a bag of them in Trader Joe’s and split them with me. I stared at the ziplock bag with slivered spiced almonds for a week or more. They tasted great on their own but they begged to be included in something bigger. Something more elaborate. Something to make the SHINE. So I came up with this cake, tweaking and altering that other cake that used pinoli nuts and oranges.

Italians love almonds. This cake has almond paste, too. And amaretti cookies, which have almond in them, too. AND I’ve added some almond extract to the recipe. It’s a very fragrant and moist cake. The lemon glaze gives it a fun lift.

3 cups amaretti cookies

13 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (plus a  little more to butter pan)

1 can almond paste (8 oz)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

blanched slivered almonds, toasted w a little spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Put the amaretti cookies in the food processor and pulse until they are as fine as bread crumb. Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Mix melted butter and cookie crumbs together.

Butter & Amaretti Crumbs

Butter & Amaretti Crumbs

Lightly butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Spread the cookie-butter mixture evenly on the bottom and bake for about 10 minutes until poofy. Take out of oven.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine remaining 8 tablespoons of butter, sugar, and almond paste. Mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the extracts. In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour all into batter and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into pan on top of baked cookie bottom and smooth level. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. If you don’t have spiced almonds, plain sliced almonds works as well.

Almond Cake in Oven

Almond Cake Going into Oven

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Let cool a bit in the pan. When it’s cool enough (but still a little warm), run a knife along the sides to make sure the cake isn’t sticking, then remove the sides of the spring-form pan. Make the glaze.

For the Glaze:

Zest and juice of 3 small lemons

1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, heat & mix the zest, juice and sugar until the sugar melts. Spoon glaze on top of cake (spoon some along the edge so that it drips off to the sides, too). Let cool. Cut and serve.

Mmmm. That's good.

Mmmm. That’s good.