- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

“Summertime, and the living is easy” are lyrics to a celebrated song, and those words also are my mantra when cooking during warm weather.

Everything seems to slow down at this time of year. Parents don’t have to worry about their children’s school schedules. Some businesses close early Friday afternoons, making weekends longer for their fortunate employees. For everyone, there are bonus daylight hours for getting tasks accomplished.

In summer, I often invite friends to come for dinner on the spur of the moment. More likely than not, people are free because everyone is less rushed, with fewer commitments during the vacation months.

My menus for such meals are simple, uncomplicated and versatile, like one I prepared several days ago. For a small group assembled at the last minute, I served pan-grilled shrimp over strands of linguine tossed with a mint pesto sauce.

A basket of crusty Italian bread and a bowl piled high with salad greens tossed in a vinaigrette were all that were needed to complete this main course. Fresh berries offered with scoops of ice cream was a perfect no-fuss dessert.

The shrimp-and-pasta dish takes just minutes to assemble. Mint leaves and a generous amount of garlic are finely minced in a food processor or blender and combined with lemon juice, hot red pepper flakes and olive oil to make a fresh mint pesto.

The sauce is then used to coat cooked linguine. Large shrimp, either pan-grilled or sauteed, are the final garnish. You can dress the warm pasta with the pesto when it comes out of the pot, then set piping-hot shrimp atop it. Or opt for serving the dish an hour after you have assembled it.

Pan-grilled shrimp with linguine and mint pesto

9 medium cloves of garlic, peeled

3 cups loosely packed mint leaves

2 teaspoons salt plus extra for cooking the pasta

1 scant teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

cup lemon juice

1⅓ cups olive oil plus extra for cooking the shrimp

1 pound dried linguine

1 pounds large shrimp, shelled, but with tails left on and deveined

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Place garlic cloves, mint leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, hot red pepper flakes, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender and process, pulsing machine on and off, about 45 seconds or longer until mint and garlic are finely minced and mixture has a saucelike consistency. Remove and set aside. (Mint pesto can be prepared 1 hour ahead; leave at cool room temperature.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add linguine and 1 to 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until pasta is al dente (tender to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes, then drain in a large colander.

Place pasta in a large, shallow serving bowl and toss with all but 2 tablespoons of the mint pesto. Taste and add more salt if needed. Cover loosely with aluminum foil while you prepare the shrimp.

Place a stove-top grill pan coated lightly with olive oil or a large heavy skillet coated with a thin layer of olive oil over medium high heat. When grill pan or skillet is very hot, add enough shrimp to fit comfortably in a single layer and cook until shrimp are pink and curled, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to a side dish and continue, adding more oil if needed, until all shrimp are cooked. Salt shrimp lightly.

Mound shrimp on top of the cooked pasta and drizzle lightly with remaining mint pesto. Garnish center of dish with a bouquet of fresh mint sprigs. Serve warm or at room temperature within an hour. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES INTERNATIONAL

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