Monday, August 19, 2013

August - It's Global Cooling - and It's Fregola on the Menu

So...after my last rant about the miserable heat of July and the scoring of restaurants based on their air-conditionability, the temperature immediately dropped and August has been anything other than its usual miserable self. Actually, it's been almost pleasant, so maybe I shouldn't complain so much...or maybe I should since everything I complain about ends up being the exact opposite of what actually happens, and the people that have read my blog all end up saying: "what an asshole!"

I even cooked a little, which is something I try to avoid all summer long, as our kitchen isn't air-conditioned and just boiling an egg in there makes it feel like the surface of Mercury.  

The whole idea of cooking in the summer is to get in and out of the kitchen. Fast.  So pick something that happens quickly. Significant Eater and I both like seafood with pasta, so I decided on fregola with shrimp in tomato sauce (I'd like to call it shrimp marinara, but that might start all sorts of arguments, so...).   Oh - fregola - that's a cool Sardinian pasta that's sort of a cross between couscous and orzo,  and goes great with seafood. Here's how:

2 Rules:

1. Use high-quality pasta.  If you're using whole wheat pasta or some cheapo garbage brand of pasta, this isn't for you.  If whole wheat or Safeway brand pasta was any good, don't you think Italians would be eating it?

2. Use good shrimp/seafood/shellfish.  I only use fish from the green market or high-quality fish vendors...99% of the time, that means NOT from Chinatown. If you want to argue with me about this, let's take a walk down Grand St. and over to Canal St. and we can talk. Don't tell me how great the fish is in Chinatown. You're wrong.  Shrimp I buy frozen in 2 pound's wild-caught USA shrimp.  I can take 1/2 pound out and have it defrosted in 10 minutes after which I brine them for about 15 minutes, which makes a big difference in both texture and taste.  For this dish, the shrimp were peeled and deveined. 

So start by making a nice, quick tomato sauce (you can do that, right?) while the pasta water comes to a boil. When the sauce tastes right, drop the pasta (you salted the water heavily, right?). Then it's all about the timing.  You want the shrimp and the pasta to be done at the same time, because if you cook the shrimp even a minute or two too long, they taste like, well, shrimp that suck. The way to do this is by estimating how long the pasta will take (the bag or box should give you a clue), and knowing that you want to finish the pasta in the sauce for its last minute or two of cooking.  The shrimp (if you use decent size shrimp) take NO  MORE THAN 3 minutes to cook, which means they go into the sauce NO MORE THAN  a minute before you drain the pasta (save some cooking water, right?) and toss it into the sauce with the shrimp to finish cooking.   If the sauce is too tight, add some of that cooking water.

Toss the pasta, sauce and shrimp all together for a minute, throw in some parsley and red pepper flakes and taste a bit of the pasta and sauce for salt and pepper...
In a minute, you'll be done.  Plate it and enjoy. And get the hell out of the kitchen - it's August...
Fregola With Shrimp and Tomato Sauce

2 cups of your best tomato sauce
1/2 lb. shrimp (16 - 20s are good)
parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper

See above - that's what this whole blog post is about.  

By the way, you can uses mussels, clams, scallops, whatever. Just adjust the cooking time so that everything ends up in that saucepan and finishes cooking at the same time.