Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Quickie Dinner

I've unpacked my cookbooks since we moved. I'm enjoying making a lot of old favorite recipes. This one is NOT low-fat, low-calorie or healthy, according to current nutritional standards. It's worth making for the occasional splurge. Plus, I don't eat a lot of it at one time. And I pair it with good, healthy stuff. It's a pasta sauce that's made by infusing cream with lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes. I serve it over those crab & shrime ravioli you can get at Costco. I eat about 3 ravioli, because they're really filling. You don't need a lot of sauce for three ravioli, so I cut the recipe in half. Next time, I'm going to make a quarter recipe, which should still be plenty of sauce for that amount of ravioli.

Here's the recipe--Spicy Lemon Pasta Sauce (based on a recipe from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed)

The sauce:

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced. Use however much makes it taste the way you like it. Judge by the size of the cloves, as well as the amount. I've seen large garlic cloves that are easily as much garlic as two small cloves.

1 tablespoon of butter

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. You can use 1/4 teaspoon, if you like it spicy, like I do.

The zest of one lemon. You can zest the lemon with a zester and leave it in strings or mince it, depending on your tolerance for eating cooked lemon peel. Be sure not to get any of the bitter white pith that's just under the skin of the lemon. Save a little zest to sprinkle over the top after it's done.

1 cup whipping cream. (I've tried several different ways to make lower fat dairy products work, but they tend to burn too easily.)

Salt, to taste.

Melt the butter. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute briefly, just to get the oils out for a stronger flavor. You shouldn't cook them longer than a minute and the garlic shouldn't get darker than golden brown or it starts to taste bitter. Pour in the cream and add the lemon zest. Turn the heat down. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't boil above a simmer or it will tend to boil over. Stir it occasionally as it cooks. It takes about 45-50 minutes to thicken and get a good flavor. If it gets too thick, stir in a bit more cream. Just before serving, taste it. I usually end up adding a tiny pinch of salt. Literally a pinch--I take my fingers and pick it up between my index finger and thumb because that helps me keep from putting too much in. This doesn't need very much and it's easy to shake too much from a salt shaker.

6 crab and shrimp ravioli. Cook according to package directions. Time them to be done when the sauce is finished. Drain. Put on a plate and drizzle the sauce over the ravioli.

I like to garnish this dish with snipped chives or Italian parsley, in addition to the reserved lemon zest, just to give the dish some color. All that white pasta and lemon yellow sauce can be kind of boring-looking on the plate.

Since this dish is so rich, I serve it with a very simple salad, like mixed greens with a bit of balsamic and olive oil. It's summer and there are good tomatoes around, so I might toss in some tomato, to give it more color. Grilled veggies would also be good. Or, if you don't want any additional fat in the meal, steamed asparagus is wonderful with this.

Mangia!

Hmmm. . . it just occurred to me that I could try making the infusion with stock. Thicken it with a cornstarch slurry. Then put in a tablespoon of creme fraiche to give it the proper texture and dairy flavor. I'll try that next time and let you all know whether it works. I'm always trying to figure out ways to keep the flavor and texture of my food, but make it as healthy as possible for everyday meals. Come holidays or special occasions, I splurge. A Weight Watcher leader once said that we could have ten meals a year to eat what we wanted. Her point was that if you splurge every day, it's not special and it makes you fat. Saving it for truly special occasions makes it truly special and doesn't make you fat. So, this is one example of my love-hate relationship with weight, food, good nutrition, and so on.