Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer scampi

This is Tuesday. I’ve been adrift lately, and even though I have an idea for an interesting dish, we’ve got too many leftovers in the fridge. Tomorrow is our foodie group’s monthly lunch which means no fancy dishes for supper. Maybe Thursday I can get back in gear, which means nothing to post ‘til Friday. You know what? I’m going to go into my blog archive. There are lots and lots of recipes that no one ever saw (I didn’t have any regular followers in those days). I’m gonna go get one right now and send it your way.

The photo is copped from another posting. Back when I first wrote the recipe below I didn’t own a camera. No matter that this picture is of shrimp and grits, which, given that I don’t expect many of you have fregola in your pantry, grits or polenta is a more than suitable substitute.

I learned something new. “Shrimp scampi” is essentially a redundancy. In Italian, scampi means “Norwegian lobster.” In the U.S., the word scampi refers more to a style of cooking than to anything else. The basic scampi preparation contains shrimp, garlic, white wine and olive oil.
Using only ingredients I found in my fridge and pantry, I came up with a delicious and satisfying dish. The recipe is entirely my own. Fregola is Italian-style couscous. I just happen to have had some on hand. The Middle Eastern couscous will give you the same result.

What you need:

1 cup fregola or Middle Eastern couscous (sometimes call Israeli couscous)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Olive oil
Shrimp, peeled and deveined. The quantity is up to you. I used about 4 oz. each for 2 servings.
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 tsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup white wine
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 scallion, finely chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 tbsp roasted red bell pepper
2 pinches red pepper flakes
2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
juice of ½ a lemon

What you do:

Bring the broth to a boil and stir in the fregola or couscous. Cook according to package directions. When tender and al dente to your taste, strain out the broth, reserving ¾ cup of the liquid. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside. In a non-stick sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When shimmering, add the shrimp. Season the shrimp with a little salt and black pepper. Cook until the first side has turned opaque half way up. Turn the shrimp and cook just until the second side turns opaque in the thickest part. Immediately remove the shrimp to a room-temperature plate and set aside. When cool, refrigerate them.
Add the onion to the pan and cook for a few minutes until softened but not colored. Add anchovy paste and garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the reserved broth and white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce by half, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
When the sauce is at room temperature, put it a large bowl and add the fregola or couscous, vinegar, scallion, tomatoes, bell pepper, pepper flakes, parsley, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.
Toss well and refrigerate for an hour or so if you have the time. About 30 minutes before meal time, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and allow the scampi to come to room temperature.
To serve, divide the scampi into 2 portions on plates or wide soup/pasta bowls. Top each serving with half of the shrimp and enjoy.

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