Sunday, July 11, 2010

Delicious days with pasta, zucchini, herbs and shrimp

It's been a summer of elves, continuing with a summer of witches, of sillies and enchantment. And it's all been delicious: the elves, the plays, the theatrical days, the food.

With tomatoes at the market, zucchini in the garden and herbs that look like they've been sneaking steroids, it was time to cook.
My second play of the summer In the Village of the Brothers Grimm has 48 roles plus 2-12 narrators. I have two casts of 21 and must plug them equally into the roles that they will heighten their summer theatre experience. Logistics. 48 roles. 42 characters. 12 Narrators. What was I thinking? Time to downsize. Simplify. Simple like my character Simpleton.

I can be Mistress of Simple. And so these were.

We started with celery stuffed with Gorgonzola and mascarpone. I combined equal parts (for 4 celery sticks I used 1/2 cup of each) of Gorgonzola Cheese with mascarpone. I folded in 4 tablespoons of marjoram. Marjoram has a sweet bite that holds up well to the Gorgonzola. Tarragon would also be interesting... and sage ... I toasted 1/3 cup of pine nuts. Simply combine the cheeses, fold in the herbs, stuff the celery and dot with pine nuts.
There's a grand cheese shop in Minneapolis called Surdyk's. If you get there early enough on a Saturday (early Saturday's are a challenge for me), you will be among the lucky few to get their sweet, fresh ricotta.
It's habit forming. I added thyme, Italian parsley and a little basil. Swirled in some olive oil and simply served it with lightly toasted bread. (I do the routine of: a. rub cut, raw garlic onto the bread. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 7 minutes or broil for 3 minutes. Grilling them would be heaven-sent.
Pleased that I was using my huge, sci-fi-movie herbs, I turned to the zucchini. I picked four small ones and a blossom. I sort of found a recipe and then changed it so much you'd never know what I based it on! It seems long but it is ripe for substitution and start to finish was 30 minutes - worth every second of prep.
Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Zucchini and Tomatoes and Herbs and Breadcrumbs and Wine and Garlic - serves 4
3/4 pound angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (you will need more for the sauce)
2 garlic cloves minced (you will need more for the sauce)
1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons of thyme, basil and parsley (combined any way that suits you)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
4 small zucchini
1/2 pint sweet cherry or grape or baby San Marzano tomatoes
4-6 tablespoons thyme and basil combined
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
3/4 cup dry white wine
Optional: one cleaned, chopped zucchini blossom
1/4-1/2 cup reserved pasta water
Cook angel hair pasta according to package directions.
Breadcrumbs: Heat olive oil in large skillet or pot large enough to hold the sauce and the cooked pasta. When hot, add garlic and swirl for 10-15 seconds. Add breadcrumbs and then herbs. Swirl until the bread crumbs soak up the oil and start to turn a deeper brown. (4 minutes tops) Remove breadcrumbs to separate bowl, wipe out pan and begin again.
Sauce: Heat olive oil. Add zucchini and tomatoes. Saute till softened. Add herbs, garlic and swirl. Add shrimp and swirl - you just want to swirl enough to get the hot olive coated on all. Add wine. Lower to simmer. Cook until sauce is reduced by half and shrimp is just cooked through. Four-five minutes. Do turn the shrimp constantly.
Pasta: Drain pasta reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta to pot with sauce and toss. The pasta will just imbibe the juicy-wine-laced sauce. If dry, add a little of the pasta liquid - one tablespoon at a time. Add bread crumbs. Turn into pasta bowl and serve.

I did salt the zucchini for a few hours. I picked them, washed them, sliced them and salted them with some lemon salt I had on hand. I left them in a colander and forgot about them (literally). I rinsed them, dried them and I must say they really soaked in the oil, garlic and sauce and were just packed with soft, filtered-sunshine, tender flavors.

Just before adding the pasta, I sprinkled some chopped zucchini blossoms over all. More sweetness. More tenderness.

The herbs lent spice, the vegetables were sweet, the shrimp had a briney, soft-chew to them. The pasta was pillow-soft and the bread crumbs had some tangy crunch. It was all I wanted from a summer evening. It was simply delicious.

On the night the elves opened, a thunderstorm raged. Babies howled and wee ones called "Mama!" Our 32 young troopers took the stage, hit their marks, smiled at their success and were stronger than the thunder. The theatre shook after 16 elves, fists in air proclaimed, "We are the elves! The elves of Cologne," and then as if on cue: "Thunderclap!" roaring its approval, and then - their kind audience roared their own approval. During curtain call, they whispered to each other, "This was so fun." It was deliciously sweet. And in two more weeks, when my witch, my sillies, my fox, my geese, my woodcutter, Simpleton and Timberly-the-gangster-fairy are done, I hope to hear the 42 teen actors say the same thing. I hope they find the play and the audience a delicacy to be savored.


La Bella Cooks said...

I love the gorgonzola and mascarpone stuffed celery! What a delicious and rich combination paired with the simple and crunchy celery. The pasta is the icing on the cake. Wow.

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

Wow I don't know what to eat first....I can eat a bowl of the filling for that celery! And the wonderful veggies is the perfect light meal for that gorgeous shrimp dish in the summer!~ all amazing as usual! always worth the wait when you post wonderful!

Debbi Does Dinner Healthy said...

The zucchini shrimp dish looks amazing and delicious! The stuffed celery is a new one for me, certainly sounds interesting! Thanks for the idea!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I have to admit, The bowl of fresh ricotta served at it's best with olive oil and herbs along with crusty bread has me weak in the knees!

Monet said...

I agree, the fresh ricotta and bread sounds divine! I would love to have a plate of crispy bread and cheese tomorrow for lunch! I loved all the fresh veggies in your shrimp dish. Such a healthy meal!

Koci said...

Gorgonzola AND mascarpone?!?! Those are two of my favorite cheeses, so I'm officially loving this recipe. It looks so yummy!

Angie's Recipes said...

Love the cheese dip...esp. good for hot humid weather we are having here.
Angel hair with seafood and zucchini looks so tempting!

Maureen Brady Johnson said...

I am so cooking this tonight!!!!

Donna-FFW said...

EVERYTHING in this post speaks to me. All so delicious. I love love love the shrimp dish, a must try for me!

Carol Egbert said...

The fresh ricotta makes me wish I were back in Ortigia in Sicily. I'll have to wait till February, thanks for great post.


It ALL looks tasty! We have been sauteing up a load of squash as well. Perfect addition to the gorgeous pasta dish!

Anne said...

All I can say is Yum!!! And of course, must try recipes. Your recipes always make me so hungry.
Smiles to you.

Barbara GF said...

I have a basketload of little zucchini I just picked that I know what I am going to do with, thanks to your lovely pasta dish, Claudia. My, you are one busy elf yourself! I don't know how you do it all. You are truly an inspiration.

Reeni said...

You worked magic with those celery sticks! Never saw them looking so delicious! And your pasta is packed with loveliness - so fresh and summery. Did I ever tell you I want to be an actress? But I'm terribly afraid of public speaking - so that isn't working out for me. I'd love to be one of your elves...

Unknown said...

Yum....I love the way the zucchini and pasta dish looks. The colors are gorgeous. I'll bet it tasted fantastic.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Everything looks delicious. The pasta is as perfect as can be for a warm summer night. I love the stuffed celery as well, but my hips are to fond of mascarpone cheese :-). Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Anonymous said...

I never thought of stuffing celery before...what a great idea!

janet said...

Everything looks yummy! It is so amazing to cook with fresh picked herbs:)

tasteofbeirut said...

I have some Roquefort cheese left over that I could use instead of the gorgonzola; and the pasta with the fresh ricotta sounds so good! fat chance of getting fresh ricotta here but then I saw somewhere it is not hard to make at home.

test it comm said...

That is one tasty looking pasta! I really like the sound of gorgonzola stuffs celery!

FOODESSA said...

What a delicious menu you put together. I found those cheese filled celery appetizers especially interesting.
Claudia, I would love to pull up a chair at your table anytime. I'll bring the vino ;o)

BTW...the next time you stop by my place...there is something for you to pick up on my APPRECIATION page.

Have a great week and flavourful wishes,

Lori Lynn said...

Such a nice summery menu Claudia! I like the polka-dot celery.

And there is nothing in the supermarket that can compare to the fresh ricotta! I like how you dressed it.

Kim said...

Sounds like opening night of the elves was magical, thunder and all.

Marjoram is an herb that I've never really tasted so I loved to hear about how you used it. Everything looks delicious. The fresh ricotta definitely looks worth waking up early on a Saturday for:) Great post, Claudia.

Jen_from_NJ said...

Everything looks so delicious! I am absolutely craving fresh ricotta and the pasta dish is just perfect for a summer night. Great ideas!

sweetlife said...

frsh ricotta, oh I love the celery..and the pasta look perfect for this time of the year, what a feast


denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

The pasta is gorgeous but my goodness, that filling in the celery just takes the....uh...cheese? ;)

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

The pasta is gorgeous but my goodness, that filling in the celery just takes the....uh...cheese? ;)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

It looks like it's worth coming to Minneapolis just for that ricotta - and a plate of your pasta.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Drooling with the dish!! Seafood, pasta and herbs are always a winner combination :)

All the best,


chow and chatter said...

oh it looks super tasty and love the cheese stuffed celery yum

Michelle said...

Love the stuffed celery..what a wonderful combo of flavors!

ann low said...

I love celery and this must be very tasty. The pasta looks very delicious too.

Juliana said...

Claudia, love the stuffed celery...what a great appetizer :-)
The pasta looks awesome with shrimp and zucchini with angel it!

Heather S-G said...

Sci-Fi herbs...on steroids...tee hee!! I want to dip and crunch and munch and feast away on all of the lovelies you've shared in this post, Claudia!

Velva said...

Your summer is rocking. You are providing a wonderful theatrical experience for many young people-cheers to you.

Your meal is rocking too! The pasta dish looks like summer and with zucchini (the gift hat keep on giving in the summer)-delicious.

the stuffed celery with marscapone looks delightful. I would eat quite a few of those at one sitting.

OysterCulture said...

What two amazing looking recipes. Love the sophisticated version of "ants on a log" I could nibble on those all day.

Bo said...

Gorgonzola stuffed celery sounds like a treat...I usually stuff mine with peanut butter.

Magic of Spice said...

Wow, everything looks fantastic!

My Little Space said...

Oh, just love what you did to the pasta and stuffed celery! Perfect meal. Enjoy yourself!
Cheers, Kristy