Shrimp Puttanesca

shrimp puttanesca x
It took me a long while to make puttanesca – that feisty Italian tomato sauce packed with briny, sharp, spicy, fishy flavors. I confess it was the anchovies. While I don’t mind anchovies, I don’t liberally cook with them either, harboring a childhood timidity toward their pungent fishiness. I should know better: Anchovies are a magical ingredient, a bright star in the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia (think fish sauce). When used with restraint, anchovies melt into a dish, amplifying flavor and producing an elusive umami quality that keeps us digging in for more. So in the spirit of the New Year and a kick in the derriere, I made this puttanesca-inspired sauce, and now I am smitten. Goodness knows why I waited so long.

Shrimp Puttanesca

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
20 to 24 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy filets, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 pound grape tomatoes, halved if large
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata or oil-cured olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp in one layer and lightly season with salt. Cook until pink on both sides and barely cooked through the centers (they will continue to cook in the sauce), about 4 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, white wine, tomato paste, capers, and black pepper. Cook until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to break up the tomatoes.

Nestle the shrimp into the sauce and simmer until thoroughly cooked and heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve warm with crusty bread.

 

Legends of Europe: Prosciutto Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

My mission (should I choose to accept it):  To create an original recipe using Prosciutto di San Daniele from Legends from Europe. Legends from Europe is a 3 year campaign funded by the European Union and launched in the U.S. to increase awareness and celebrate “the legendary quality, tradition and taste” of five authentic PDO products (Protected Designation of Origin) from Europe: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reffiano, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Grana Padano and Montasio.

As luck would have it, these 5 products happen to be some of my favorites. The biggest challenge I faced was not in accepting this mission but deciding which product to feature. Fortunately, the folks at Legends helped me with my choice and assigned me the Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto di San Daniele is named for the region of San Daniele in northeastern Italy where it enjoys a unique micro-climate nestled between the Dolomite Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The ham is left to slow-cure naturally, following a 2,000 year-old tradition introduced by the Celts. Today, Prosciutto di San Daniele is considered a delicacy  with its mild flavor and delicate texture. This week, I will be posting a few recipes I’ve created with Legends’ Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

A small rosemary sprig does double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the figs and goat cheese with its flavor as they bake in the oven. Makes 16 hors-d’oeuvres

8 ripe figs
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices “Legends from Europe” Prosciutto di San Daniele, halved lengthwise
16 3/4-inch rosemary sprigs with stem, plus 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat oven to 375 F. Halve figs lengthwise. Place figs on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix goat cheese and pepper together in a small bowl. Fill the indentation with goat cheese, about 1/2 teaspoon. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around fig. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves. Place figs in a baking dish. Lightly brush prosciutto with olive oil. Bake in oven until prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer figs to a platter. Remove baked rosemary sprigs and discard (they will be brown). Replace with a few fresh rosemary leaves, without stem. Lightly drizzle figs with honey. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve warm.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

fregola tastefood

If you have never tried Fregola Sarda, then you should. Fregola (also known as fregula) is a semolina pasta hailing from Sardinia, Italy. It’s quite similar to pearl couscous which is made of wheat. It consists of tiny rolled balls which have been sun-dried then toasted, lending a satisfying and unique nutty flavor and mottled texture. Fregola is delicious on its own, served simply with olive oil, sea salt and a dusting of cheese, in  soups, or combined with vegetables and fresh herbs as a side dish or light meal.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Serves 4

1 pound fregola
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt
1/2 pound thin asparagus
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the fregola and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or per package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat.
Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces while keeping the tips intact. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus stalks and tips. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Saute until asparagus brightens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus are crisp tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add to the fregola. Add the Pecorino and toss to combine. If the fregola are too sticky, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve warm with additional black pepper. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Spaghetti and Meatballs

One would think that since I have a food blog, dinner is always a happening, gastronomic event in our home. Wouldn’t that be nice? However, as any multi-tasking writer/parent may attest, after a day of meeting deadlines, planning a cooking class, driving kids to and from activities, bringing the dog to the vet and paying bills, dinnertime rolls around and the “what’s for dinner?” question looms with a blank stare in response. The most unfair aspect of this situation is that the supermarket was bypassed on the way to the vet, and I have spent a good part of the day immersed in the food web drooling over photos and recipes by many talented bloggers. So to add misery upon misery, not only is the family famished and the refrigerator empty, I am craving a delicious home-cooked meal worthy of TasteSpotting.

Yesterday this was the case. It was 6 pm, and I had no idea what to make for dinner. We were hungry, and the usual salad with cheese seemed so … wimpy. I pictured something warm and filling, a sturdy meal to feed a family. Peeking in the freezer, I spied a pound of frozen beef, and suddenly envisioned a Lady and the Tramp style platter of spaghetti with steaming red sauce and meatballs. The cook in me said, “Why not?” All the necessary ingredients were in the pantry. It would take less than an hour to prepare the meatballs and sauce, while filling the kitchen with tantalizing aromas as it simmered. I would rally and fight my fatigue. The reward was a perfectly delicious and rustic family-style dinner to launch the new week.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten. I used all beef for the meatballs (that’s what was in the freezer!) Feel free to substitute some of the beef with veal or pork. Serves 4.

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 pound veal or pork)
3 slices prosciutto, minced
1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg, lightly beated
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 –  28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
Whole basil leaves for garnish

Combine the beef, prosciutto, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, oregano, salt pepper and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the egg and water and mix in with your hands. Lightly form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs.
Heat olive and vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Carefully add the meatballs in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides, turning gently with tongs or a spatula. Remove and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel. When all of the meatballs are browned, pour off the oil. Without cleaning the skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and saute until softened, 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits, until reduced by 2/3. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Add tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Return meatballs to the skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Serve over cooked spaghetti, garnished with grated cheese and basil leaves.

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

Ever since a trip to Umbria last year when we ate a succulent wild boar ragu in an obscure village restaurant, I have had boar on my mind.  The ragu was served over a platter heaped with pappardelle. The meat was falling apart tender, dissolving in a rich wine sauce perfumed with juniper and cloves. Since then, that meal has been a popular conversation topic in our family when reflecting on our trip. So, I decided to try and make my own boar ragu.

Boar meat may be ordered from your butcher and, depending on where you live, you may find it in specialty stores that carry game meat. I ordered my meat from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, where they raise ranch-raised boar. The meat arrived frozen in a cooler box and I popped it into my freezer, so it would be ready when I devised a recipe.

The flavor of boar may be likened to a cross between pork and lamb. Boar meat is very lean and rich in protein. It has more protein than beef or pork and is lower in cholesterol than chicken. Not bad for an animal deemed an exotic pest in the U.S. Due to its mild gamey flavor and lack of fat, boar meat benefits from marinades and slow cooking, and it’s well matched with spirits and aromatic spices such as cloves and juniper.

Boar Ragu with Pappardelle

As the ragu simmers, the boar meat will absorb a good deal of the liquid. The ragu may be made up to 2 days in advance, allowing the flavors to develop with time. As an alternative to pasta, serve over polenta. Serves 4-6.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boar shoulder, cut in 1 inch chunks
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 large garlic cloves
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
2 cups full-bodied red wine
4 bay leaves
Bouquet garni: 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries, 8 black peppercorns, 6 whole cloves, tied in cheese cloth with kitchen string

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Season boar all over with salt and pepper. Add boar to the skillet in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer meat to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sauté onion, carrots and garlic, scraping up brown bits, until they begin to soften, 4 minutes. Return boar with any juices to the pan. Add tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over very low heat, partially covered, until meat is falling tender and sauce is reduced by half, 2 hours. Serve with pappardelle and top with grated cheese.

Lasagna Night

Lasagna

My daughter announced the other day that she had just finished her 15th day of school. I was stunned. I could have sworn we had been back in the school routine for at least 3 months.

Since the beginning of September life has been a whirlwind of family activity revolving around school, carpool, activities, homework, dinners, entertaining and birthdays. As the children have grown older, it seems that time has sped up even faster with more and more commitments to attend to, including my work. I’ve already lost track of days, my car keys, a pair of flip flops and multiple shopping lists.

Yesterday was another blur, when at the end of day the inevitable question “What’s for dinner?” was directed to me and drew a blank stare. Luckily I had a stash of ricotta in the refrigerator, along with lasagna sheets in the pantry. A quick tomato sauce was easily prepared, and with a little assembly accompanied by a glass of red wine, a homey lasagna was produced to the satisfaction of all of us.

Lasagna

This recipe creates a dry and hearty lasagna, with little excess liquid and chunks of vegetables in the tomato sauce. If you prefer meat in your tomato sauce, add 1/2 pound browned ground beef along with the tomatoes. Serves 4-6.

For the tomato sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 – 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
1 small can tomato paste
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the ricotta filling:
1 pound fresh ricotta
1 large egg
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the lasagna:
1 pound dried lasagna sheets
Fresh mozzarella, grated
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the sauce:
Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrot, red pepper and saute until the onion wilts, about 4 minutes. Stir in basil and oregano and saute one minute. Add tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, bay leaf and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasoning.

Prepare the ricotta filling:
While the sauce is simmering combine all the filling ingredients in one bowl and mix well.

Assemble the lasagna:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)
Spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce in bottom of a deep baking dish. Lay a layer of dried lasagna sheets over the sauce, breaking the pieces if necessary to fit. Spread a layer of ricotta lightly over pasta.  Drop spoonfuls of the tomato sauce over the cheese without covering the sauce (or the lasagna will be very wet). Evenly sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering process until the last amount of ricotta has been used. Top the ricotta with tomato sauce and cheese. Bake in oven until bubbly and turning golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Sunday Supper: Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Orecchiette

Rumor has it that this summer has been one of the coolest on record in the San Francisco Bay area with even more fog than usual. Luckily, we missed most of it, but I am not gloating. Instead, we witnessed record breaking heat and torrential rains in Europe, 100 percent humidity on the East coast and the excuse to wear fleece in Iceland. This has, indeed, been a season of extreme weather (although, for Iceland, I think extreme is more the norm).

Now we are home and experiencing some of that chilly San Francisco weather, but I can’t say that I mind. After all, summer is winding down, school is starting, and my New England DNA has me programmed to look forward to a brisk autumn season. Not only does the fresh air beget fires and woolies, it also invites cozy, rustic cooking. And what better way to start the season than with a casual, comforting Sunday supper?

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

The heat of sausage mingles with earthy broccoli rabe and sweet red bell pepper. I like to serve this dish straight from the skillet, accompanied by a salad of mixed greens, fresh country-style bread and a glass of Côtes du Rhône. Serves 4.

1 pound orecchiette pasta

1/2 pound broccoli rabe, washed, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, crumbled
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving:

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente; drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, bring another large pot of salted water to boil. Add broccoli rabe and blanch 30 seconds; drain. Plunge broccoli rabe into a bowl of ice water. Cool and drain again. Lay in one layer on a kitchen towel to thoroughly dry. Cut in 1″ pieces.
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add crumbled sausage to the skillet. Sauté over medium heat until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Pour off all but one tablespoon of accumulated oil in the skillet. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add red bell pepper, broccolil rabe, pepper and salt. Sauté one minute. Add sausage and cook until heated through.
Remove skillet from heat.
Add cooked pasta and cheese to the skillet; toss to combine. Serve with additional grated cheese on the side.

Tomato Bruschetta, Italy and the World Cup

Bruschetta Tomato tf

It’s World Cup Football Championship time again. For those of you not in touch with this sporting rite, it is THE international football championship that takes place worldwide every four years. Don’t get me wrong. I hardly watch football (that’s soccer for you Americans). But, I am, after all, married to a Dane and lived many years in Europe where if you are not following at least a teensy bit of football in the news or on the television, you are living in a shoebox.

The World Cup also makes me think of Italy, where we often vacationed when we lived in Europe. Four years ago we were doing just that when the Italians won the last championship. What an impression that made. We were in Rome when the quarterfinals took place. As tourists, we naively ventured into the city for dinner during the quarterfinals match. While the restaurants were open, they were sparsely populated – and only with wayward tourists such as us. The staff were, to say the least, distracted, hovering over radios or watching small televisions in the kitchens or at the bar. We quickly deduced that we might as well just settle back and root for our new favorite football team without being overly critical about erratic table service. After our meal we knew there was no hope in finding a taxi driver to bring us back to our hotel until after the match. So, we wandered into another restaurant with a lounge and cheered on Italy as they won. From that moment on the streets came alive with revelers, cars honking, sirens blaring. This continued well into the night, long after we had gone to bed. It was just the quarterfinals.

The semi-finals took place after we left Rome for Tuscany, where we shared a villa with some friends near Montepulciano. The afternoon of the match, we wandered the crooked, narrow streets of the medieval village and came upon the town square, or Piazza. An enormous screen was being erected against a building façade while rows of folding chairs filled the open space, encircling the fountain to create an outdoor theater. It made me think of the film Cinema Paradiso. No worries if you didn’t own a television – all the villagers would gather that evening and watch the football match together, cheering on their team.

The finals played on one of our last nights in Italy. We had moved to the Isle of Elba and were staying in at the lovely Villa Ottone. The staff was professional and proper, the clientelle was well-heeled and dignified. So, imagine the night of the finals, in the middle of the first dinner service, when a tuxedoed maître d’ wheeled a television into the center of the dining terrace. As if on cue, all protocol was suspended. Waiters, busboys and hotel staff gathered around the television. Diners pulled up their chairs, balancing dinner plates on their laps. The French tourists cheered on France. The Italian tourists and staff cheered on the Italians. We were all caught up in a passionate TV dinner for the next 2 hours. When we finished eating we crowded into the bar, squeezing into sofas, balancing on the arms of chairs, sitting cross-legged on the floor, elbow to elbow with our fellow football fans. A Swedish photographer bought us a round of drinks. We reciprocated and bought drinks for the French couple sitting at our feet. The bartender invited our children to perch on the bar and gave them free sodas. Together we cheered and booed as Italy won the world cup. What an equalizer. Who said that English is the international language?

This year the World Cup takes place in South Africa. But I cannot help but think of Italy whenever it takes place. If I had to create something to eat while watching a football match it would be Tomato Bruschetta.


Tomato Bruschetta


Tomato Bruschetta
Makes 8

For the tomatoes:
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in 1/4″ pieces or quartered if small
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the bread:
8 slices levain or peasant bread, cut 1/2″ thick
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed but still intact
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt

1/2 cup basil leaves, shredded plus whole leaves for garnish

Prepare the tomatoes:
Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and toss to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning. Let sit at room temperature while bread is prepared.

Prepare the bread:
Preheat oven grill or griddle pan. Rub bread on both sides with garlic. Brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over bread. Grill, turning once, until both sides are golden.

Arrange bread in one layer on a platter. Stir shredded basil into the tomatoes. Top bread with tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Honey Roasted Fig Crostini

Honey Roasted Fig Crostini

Recipe updated from the TasteFood archives.

One of the best aspects of Italian food is the simplicity of ingredients in its cuisine. Simplicity is the name of the game in this Italian-inspired appetizer featuring the summer’s ripest figs. Perched on crusty, garlicky crostini with just-melted, creamy buffalo mozzarella, crispy, salty prosciutto and fresh basil leaves, all that is needed is a brush of sweet, runny honey and a good grinding of freshly ground black pepper to finish.  The result is a mouthful of complimenting textures and sweet, salty, peppery flavors that might even transport you for a brief moment to the hills of Tuscany. 


Crostini with Honey Roasted Figs, Mozzarella and Prosciutto Crisps
Makes approximately 16 crostini

One baguette, sliced diagonally, 1/4″ thick
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 slices prosciutto
8 green or purple figs, trimmed, sliced lengthwise, about 1/4″ thick
3 tablespoons honey
2 buffalo mozzarellas, drained
Fresh basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare crostini:
Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)
Combine olive oil, garlic and salt in a small bowl.
Arrange baguette slices on oven rack.  Lightly brush oil over bread.  Place bread in oven and bake until edges are golden brown.  Turn off heat.  Keep bread in oven additional 15 minutes as they continue to harden.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.
Crostini can be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Store in airtight plastic container at room temperature.

Prepare prosciutto:
Arrange slices in one layer on non-stick oven tray or parchment paper.  Place in preheated 350 F. oven.  Bake 15 minutes.  Turn off heat, but do not remove prosciutto for another 15 minutes.  (The longer the prosciutto remains in the oven, the crispier it will become.)  Remove from oven.  Break prosciutto slices in half and set aside.  Prosciutto can be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Store in airtight plastic container and refrigerate.  Allow to come to room temperature before assembling crostini.

Assemble crostini:
Preheat oven grill.
Divide each mozzarella in half horizontally.  Cut each half into 4 slices.  Place one slice on each crostini.  Top with one layer of fig slices.  Brush figs with honey.  Place crostini under oven grill and grill unti figs begin to turn color and cheese begins to melt.
Remove from oven and arrange on serving plate.  Top each crostini with a prosciutto crisp and basil leaf.  Drizzle with olive oil, grind fresh pepper over and serve immediately.

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino

Shrimp and Pea Puree

English peas are nature’s superior answer to fast food.  Sweet and crisp, they taste best popped straight from the shell into the mouth; no need to bother with cooking.  At this time of year peas are abundant, and when I go to the farmers’ market I find myself using up all of my spare money on brown bags overflowing with peas.  Today was no different:  I came home from the market with several pounds of peas, cascading out of their overstuffed bags, mingling with bunches of fresh mint, chives, and edible kale flowers. Once home, I quickly confiscated a singular bag to stash away and later transform into a pea puree while the rest of the family and visiting friends grabbed handfuls of peas as they passed through the kitchen.

The pea puree is delicious as is, but my favorite way to serve it is with shellfish.  The briny sweetness of shrimp, scallops or lobster is a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the peas, while the pearly coral colors of the shellfish contrast beautifully with the vivid green pea color.  I like to present the following recipe  in small glasses or demi-tasse cups with the shellfish perched on top.

English Peas

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino
Serves 8 as an appetizer

2 cups shelled English peas
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 large garlic clove, minced
16 large shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
2 tablespoons dry white wine

Pecorino Romano shavings
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Fresh chives for garnish
Kale flowers (optional)

Prepare Pea Purée:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the peas. Reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender. Remove from heat; drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Combine peas and 1/4 cup cooking liquid in food processor and purée until smooth. Add more water to desired consistency. Transfer to bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, Pecorino and fresh mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Prepare Shrimp:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic and chili flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp in one layer and cook, turning once, until pink on the outside and opaque in the center, about 1 minute per side. Add wine and cook 30 seconds to allow alcohol to evaporate. Remove from heat. Divide warm pea purée among 8 demi-tasse cups or martini glasses. Arrange 2 shrimp over purée. Top with Pecorino shavings, freshly ground black pepper and drizzle olive oil over. Garnish with chives and edible flowers.

Kale Flowers