Instead, I bring you: Shrimp and Spaghetti Squash a la Cart Vendor... or Shrimp and Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Fennel? Years ago, I was watching a Mario Batali show that featured a recipe for "street vendor" or "cart driver" pasta. The recipe, of course, came with a fantastic story of Batali's travels to Italy and how cart vendors will make this great-yet-basic pasta; a recipe that is easily modified and improved upon. I use it ALL THE TIME for pasta, shrimp, chicken... anything. However, for the life of me, I cannot find this recipe online! Did I make this up??
Basically, you infuse olive oil with garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes; toss in pasta; salt & pepper; Parmesean. Voila! Suggested additions include: arugula, protein, onions/shallots, cherry tomatoes, roasted red pepper, etc. Tonight? I added in spinach. Above is a picture of a rough (read: lazy) chiffonade of the spinach. A chiffonade is when you slice your leafy greens into long, thin strips. The easiest way is to pile the leaves on top of each other, tightly roll up, and then slice starting from an opened end. I was lazy because I didn't exactly "stack the leaves," so much as I "crumpled up quickly and violently." Still good! Still good.
The spinach was set to the side to be used later.
This is where the infusing comes in. I haven't measured out the amount of olive oil, but you want a good amount in the skillet.... more like a thin layer than just coating the pan. Anyways, all seasonings go in here (salt, pepper, garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, shallots) and simmer for at least 5 minutes. Whenever you add something like fennel seeds, it's advisable to crush the seeds between your fingertips before adding to the dish. This helps to unleash the beast! ...the Beast of Flavor!!
True story: it was this recipe that opened my eyes to fennel seed. It's one of my favorite, go-to spices that usually add a little somethin'-somethin' to a dish. Gives it a whole new layer! Give it a try... please???
And, uh, here is where I cook the shrimp.... not TOO long. Take them off the heat as soon as they become opaque, so that they aren't over-cooked.
So, normally I oven-roast any and all squash, including the spaghetti variety. However, as time was of the essence (I think we had a movie to catch!) I gave the microwave a shot. Be sure to pierce the squash a few times before nuking it, or else it will... explode? I can only assume it would explode. And that would be quite the mess.
Verdict: I still prefer oven-roasting, especially as you can add flavor to the squash this way. But the microwave is a great & speedy option, in a pinch.
With either method, let the squash cool before dragging a fork through; this is where the 'spaghetti' forms! Toss spinach, infused oil, shrimp & squash together (conveniently, un-photographed) and serve with grated cheese.
.... A LOT of grated cheese! It look like snow, don'tcha think? Delicious, sharp, snow. The cheese really took this to a whole new level, and is a definite "must."
We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog post to bring you......
I arrive at my beau's house, only to be smacked in the nose with the overwelming smell of BACON! Apparently, his roommate, Karen, felt the need to cook up an entire pig's-worth of bacon. Ok, maybe not an entire pig... but one of those big 3-5lb packages. I kept thinking maybe she would stop, and save the rest to cook later? I thought wrong. See the carnage for yourself:
Look at all that grease! Also, the picture is deceiving... that is one BIG tower of pork.
Shrimp and Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Fennel
3-4 garlic cloves
2 handfuls of spinach*
1tsp fennel seed
1tsp red pepper flakes
~20 shrimps (more/less if you like), peeled & de-veined
1 spaghetti squash
plenty of olive oil (probably around 1/3c)
salt & pepper
Parmesean/Asiago/Romano, for grating
Puncture spaghetti squash with a few holes using a knife or fork. On a plate, microwave squash for 10 minutes. Flip, and cook for 10 more minutes. Cover with large bowl, and allow to set for 3 minutes. Cut open the squash in half, length-wise. Remove seeds & strings. Then, drag a fork through the flesh, making 'spaghetti'.
Dice shallots and garlic, finely. Over medium, heat olive oil. Add shallots, garlic, fennel (crushing in fingertips before adding,) salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook for at least 5 minutes, being careful not to let it get too hot & burn the garlic.
Add shrimp. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from heat when opaque.
In large bowl, mix squash, all of the shrimp-olive oil mixture, and spinach. Taste, and adjust accordingly; you may also need to add more olive oil to coat sufficiently.** Serve with grated cheese.
*"Handfuls" is TOTALLY a proper unit of measurement, right?
**I find I usually have to add more red pepper flakes, and definitely s&p.