Shrimp Fried Quinoa

Senior year of college I lived with ten other girls in an 11-bedroom house.  Suffice it to say that we were a group of “strong-minded” Cornell women, infringing upon other roommates’ personal space and sanity with less than stellar cleaning habits and oftentimes downright rude clothing theft (which we considered silent “borrowing” at the time).

The other day over drinks a few of us were laughing about the fact that almost all of us now live alone, in very clean spaces.

Clearly that experience left a lasting mark on all of us, so this post is dedicated to my fellow Cornell alum/solo-dwelling/sanity-seeking former roommates, whom I will always admire for going through all that we did.

Now let’s get to the food: this is a seriously good meal which you may consider strange to make for one person.  I can’t decide whether I agree with you, but regardless you can easily double this recipe and enjoy it with a significant other, good friend, roommate, etc.

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes: you can most definitely substitute another cooked grain for quinoa, with certain ones immediately coming to mind such as faro, brown rice, wild rice, spelt, millet, or couscous.  Cook each and every one according to package instructions and you’ll be golden.  On Friday I discovered a fantastic and fool-proof way to cook quinoa, in which you cook it like pasta and drain it once fully cooked – no need to worry about adding the perfect amount of water.  Amazing, I know.

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White Bean, Asparagus, and Sesame-Crusted Shrimp Salad

Not every one falls in love with Paris, but I find that those who do are hooked for life.  Whether it happens over a café crème on a sunny terrace or during a never-ending picnic rife with cheap red wine and crunchy baguettes, this city is capable of leaving you mesmerized, walking through the charming streets as if in a daydream.   And while living here may be just a fantasy, an image of a life I want to believe I’m leading (I recommend watching Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris to get a better idea of what I’m talking about), there are certain rituals I have come to adopt that remind me that, even if Paris embodies a city that is bordering fantasia, there are still many things, mostly in food form, that capture my heart and remind me that true talent and beauty lies in the heart of the city.  One such ritual is enjoying lunch at le Comptoir, undoubtedly one of my favorite restaurants in Paris and likely the favorite of many other frequenters.  While it’s almost not worth going for dinner as it requires a reservation six months in advance, if you arrive on the early side (12pm sharp) for lunch you can enjoy a lovely table on the sunny terrace.  This is precisely what I do when I want to enjoy a refreshing glass of white wine and the best salad I’ve ever had in my life, the Salad Niçoise.  I assume you’ll immediately tell me that you don’t like Salad Niçoise, because it is boring or bland, or that you don’t like anchovies.  But, my dear reader, I felt the same way before trying this salad, which has changed my life and made me think about the perfect harmony of a salad in a new way.

I am grateful to this salad niçoise, not only for making my stomach and eyes extremely happy, but additionally for reminding me that salads don’t need to be light or boring to be enjoyed.  They can be a scene for extreme experiences: marriages of flavor that develop and change with each bite.  Dig around the plate to find a little bit of egg or some crispy caramelized onions that will forever change your next bite from your last.  Although the salad that I’m posting today has nothing to do with a nicoise salad, it was with this appreciation for the greener side of life that I hoped to present to you a salad that is at once hearty, healthy, and complex.  This is essentially a new version of a shrimp and arugula salad that I have been making for a while.  Because it’s springtime and the fruits and vegetables are at the beginning of their glorious high season, I had to include roast asparagus, which for me is one of the easiest springtime things to make and can be tossed with just about anything: in a frittata, with pasta, or just roasted and eaten in its pure form. 

If you have to buy more asparagus than the recipe calls for, I would recommend either saving the remainder and using them at a later time (they will keep for up to 5 or 6 days in tupperware in your fridge), or roasting all of them and eating the remaining asparagus as a snack over the next few days.  Roast asparagus is something I would liken to roast sweet potatoes, in the sense that both of these ingredients change personality entirely to acquire a salty, almost creamy air about them once exiting the hot oven.  Needless to say I’m a huge fan.  Also, don’t forget to remove the ends of the asparagus which are not tender enough to be eaten: take each asparagus in your hands and snap it in two – the asparagus will naturally break where it is no longer tender.

I of course added shrimp because I am a seafood lover jusqu’au bout, and fresh, large, jumbo shrimp can make a cameo on my dinner plate any day.  The addition of sesame seeds adds a nice extra dimension of saltiness and protein (and it’s really easy to put together, I promise!) which pairs very well with the sautéed basil.

Lastly, if you decide that you would like to try to make the shallot/shrimp medley but you don’t care for the lettuce or roast asparagus, I would recommend removing the tails off the shrimp, cutting them into bite-size pieces, and eating them in a burrito with sliced avocado and sour cream or on toasts.  And now I’m hungry once again.

White Bean, Asparagus, and Sesame-Crusted Shrimp Salad – serves 1
 
For the asparagus:
6 to 8 stalks of green asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil
coarse sea salt
 
For the Salad:
1/2-cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 jumbo shrimp, peeled, heads removed and tails left on
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 lemon
1/2-cup white beans
2 large handfuls arugula
 
To cook the asparagus:
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425° F. Line a baking sheet that is large enough to hold all the asparagus flat with tin foil. Add all the ingredients and toss thoroughly with your hands to combine.
2. Roast in the oven until crispy yet tender, about 12-15 minutes.
3. Once cool enough to handle, cut into matchstick-sized pieces and set aside. If there is any oil remaining on the baking sheet, set it aside to add to the sauce
 
To prepare the salad:
1. In a shallow bowl or dish, spread out the sesame seeds.
2. Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, and salt; pass the oiled shrimp through the sesame seeds to coat.
3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot, and cook, stirring occassionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
4. Turn the heat to medium- high, add the shrimp, and cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side.
5. Add the juice from half of the lemon (or more if necessary, you want to make a sauce). Remove from heat, add the basil slivers, and toss to combine. Add any remaining oil from the roast asparagus.
6. Place the arugula and white beans on a plate. Top with shrimp and shallot sauce. Add additional lemon juice or olive oil as neccesary, and season with salt and pepper.

>Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp over Parmesan Polenta

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Ingredients: Bacon, shrimp, polenta, parmesan

The second recipe in the 5-ingredient series features baked shrimp wrapped ceremoniously in thin strips of bacon, served over fluffy polenta. As I headed to the Marché Raspail this morning to buy my shrimp, I couldn’t help but smile at all of the men and women picking over vegetables, meat, fruit, nuts, and bread before them.  The food market is almost like a theater, and the customers certainly know how to play their part: ”no, I don’t want that comte cheese in the back - how dare you assume? Give me this piece in the front.”  “Tell me about this lamb – how shall I cook it? What sides will I make with it?  Oh forget it I don’t want it anymore, what about this duck here?”  I provided my seafood vendor with an easy request: “5 crevettes s’il vous plaît, les plus grandes que vous avez.”  I won’t lie, I still get excited every time I successfully order an item from the market.  So he handed me five shiny shrimp, and I walked away victorious from the lively bustle of inquisitive and hungry patrons.
I like this dish because it packs a lot of punch for so few ingredients.  Shrimp is also quite good for you, with high doses of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.  Unfortunately, shrimp also comes with a hearty amount of cholesterol, so those with high-cholesterol levels should use caution when eating crustaceans such as shrimp and lobster. I mixed some parmesan into the polenta to add a sharp flavor, but it would hold up nicely if eaten plain with just a healthy dose of salt.  I believe any other kind of cheese, maybe chedder, gruyere, goat cheese, or feta, would also go nicely in this dish.

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp over Parmesan Polenta – serves 1
5 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4-5 strips uncooked bacon
1/4-cup instant polenta
1 1/2 tablespoons grated parm
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1.  Wash and dry the shrimp.  Cut the bacon into two strips lengthwise and wrap around the shrimp.  Hold the bacon in place by piercing a toothpick through each shrimp. 
2.  Place shrimp on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until bacon is crisp, about 20 minutes
3.  Meanwhile, cook the polenta:  place 1 cup of water in a small saucepan with 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. 
4.  Gradually whisk in polenta, and simmer over medium-low heat until very thick, about 10 minutes.
5.  Stir parmesan into polenta until combined; season to taste with salt and pepper. 
6.  Place polenta on a platem remove toothpicks from shrimp, and serve over polenta.
Tomorrow: bruschetta with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette (still with 5 ingredients or less) – does this appeal to you? Would you rather me try to make something else?  Let me know!  Post a comment or email me: ashley.fahr@cookingforoneinparis.com

>Shrimp and Pumpkin Bisque

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As adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfield, copyright 2000
Nothing represents fall better than soup.  And for me, bisque immediately conjures up images of turleneck sweaters, stuffed turkeys, fireplaces, and warmth.  I love the creamy, almost nutty flavors of bisques, and the hearty energy they provide on a cold and rainy day.
This bisque is fantastic.  I mean, wow.  Everything from the roast pumpkin to the shrimp sauteed with sage provides so much depth and flavor.  I feel like the rat from ratatouille who can’t help but lose himself in the moment when describing to his less gastronomically-inclined rat friend the joy of combining multiple flavors: pumpkin! shrimp! white wine! butter! sage! cayenne! saffron! Mixed altogether into a soup creates a rat-friendly, perfect fall evening.
Shrimp and Pumpkin Bisque – serves 1
If you use fresh pumpkin (which I highly recommend doing, it makes such a difference with the flavor!), before starting this recipe, cut the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes, roast for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours, and purée. 
4 large shrimp, uncooked and unpeeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoon dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
Pinch saffron threads (about 4 or 5)
1 celery rib, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons heavy cream
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1.  Peel and devein shrimp; reserve the shells, and place the shrimp in a bag or container and store in the fridge.  Heat half of the olive oil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Once the oil is smoking, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring constantly, until they are just beginning to brown, about 3-4 minutes. 
2.Add the wine to the pan (be careful that it doesn’t ignite – you may want to lift it off the heat for a moment), then boil it over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
3.  Add the chicken stock, saffron, celery, onion, bay leaves, and sage.  Bring to a boil, then simmer gently, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.  Strain the stock through a fine sieve, pushing down on the solids to extract any extra liquid.  Pour the stock back into the saucepan.
4.  Whisk the pumpkin, cream, and cayenne into the stock.  Gently simmer for about 10 more minutes. (This can be made up to 1 day ahead – store, covered in the refigerator; keep the peeled shrimp in a resealable bag in a bowl of ice in the fridge).
5.  Heat the remaining olive oil in a smal skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp and sage, and cook until the shrimp are cooked through and slightly crispy, about 3-4 minutes. 
6.  Remove the shrimp from heat, and cut into very small pieces.  Pour the soup into a bowl; lay the shrimp over it.
Voila!! Bon appetit!