Last Saturday morning, I woke up extra early with my toddler’s scream for breakfast and decided that I was going to be a very nice person and wake up everyone in the house so they would not miss the most beautiful morning of the year. Sixty degrees and sunny, we got dressed and ventured out to our local Farmer’s market in a quest for fresh croissants and some coffee. Unfortunately, the French bakery that operates there did not have any that morning so we decided to check everything else and get a taste of what was being offered that morning. In the middle of our walk, I was pulled in one direction as a magnet in the “artisanal pasta” direction. The Italian man that was attending the station transported me into my first visit to
in seconds. (I could hear my sister's mother in law: "Mangia tutti! tutti!!!). Olive oil, Balsamic so sweet it tasted like figs, truffles, Parmigianno, Mozzarella, I could see it all working into a delicious dinner where the pureness and simplicity of basic ingredients shines and takes center stage. Who does not think that a good slice of a vine ripe tomato, topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, plenty of good olive oil, sea salt and pepper is one of the most delicious yet simple things in the world? Cook some fettuccine, slice some mushrooms, sauté them with olive oil, white wine, sea salt, your favorite fresh herb and toss those beautiful noodles into the hot pan, see magic happen. Yes, Italian food is by far my favorite, there is absolutely no doubt about it. Italy
I spent about half an hour listening to the proud salesman and being seduced by the smell, taste and beauty of the ingredients he had on display. I took a deep breath and starting selecting what I was NOT going to take with me. I just wanted it ALL! One of my most precious selections was a bag of artisanal spaghettini with squid ink. I love cooking with them. To tell you all the truth, the taste of it is usually not as strong as I would wanted it to be (I just absolutely adore the taste of squid ink) but it has that hint that definitely makes a difference and acts as a gorgeous canvas for a seafood dish. As usual, I go very simplistic with what I use and let the ingredients speak for themselves. This is what I made the last time I got the “inked” pasta, I cannot wait to improvise something this weekend.
Inked Spaghettini with Shrimp and Cognac
1 pound inked spaghettini
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 large shallot, finely diced
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined
oarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
A couple of whole uncooked basil leaves for decoration (they look pretty and taste delicious)
For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the spaghettini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add cognac and sugar and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil, top with whole basil leaves and serve immediately.
(This recipe was based on a Tyler Florence recipe for Shrimp Scampi. I gave myself the freedom to add, delete, remodel the original recipe. Tyler, please don’t sue me ;) )