Sexy Spicy Shrimp and Pasta: The recipe we used for City Food Tours Aphrodisiac Tasting Event for Valentine's Day was modified from the original version published in the Daily News. When Robert and Eric realized we would be cooking for close to 100 people over the course of the weekend, their first thought was that the food would turn from great to a disaster in a matter of hours. Preparing it ahead of time, bringing it to the demo site and then reheating it, plating and serving a pasta dish, for 30-plus guests each day would render the meal inedible, making it a turn-off instead of a turn-on. Putting our heads together, we agreed that there there is nothing sexy about mushy pasta, grey asparagus and rubbery shrimp. The recipe was revised to a pasta salad, albeit an upscale gourmet version of pasta salad, incorporating at least 12 aphrodisiac ingredients to set the mood. My catering chef's hat was was quickly popped onto my head, bringing me back to the catering world again. I was cooking for amore, making people crave my sexy dish! Unlike catering events from the past, the Valentine's weekend of City Food Tour events were on a much more manageable scale and did not require the massive amount of physical labor that I remember with a shudder and a shiver from my days working in the food trenches.
This newer recipe is made in stages, ideal for serving to a large crowd, taking along to a party, or making ahead and serving it at a later time. The dressing can be made in larger quantities and will hold for at least a week or up to two weeks. The shrimp can be cooked to order, purchased pre-cooked, sauteed or boiled. You can use any easy to eat shaped pasta, such as Farfalle (Butterfly or Bowtie), Penne Rigate, Shells, Wheels or Tubetti. You can swap out the homemade dressing for a light mustard vinaigrette. As I have written before, this is an ideal recipe to deconstruct and rework, adapting to whatever ingredients and ideas you may have.
Ingredients for the Dressing:
- 1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
- 1/4 Cup Champagne (flat is best; less bubbles)
- 2 Tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar or a Good Quality White Wine Vinegar or Fresh Lemon Juice
- Pinch of Salt and Dash of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- In a large mixing cup or bowl, whisk together the dry mustard powder, champagne, vinegar and salt and pepper.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuously whisking to emulsify the ingredients. Alternatively you can use a food processor or blender to incorporate the ingredients, but slowly drizzle in the oil so that the mixture will hold together.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and pepper, vinegar or oil.
- Makes 1 Cup dressing.
- Dressing will keep for up to two weeks refrigerated in a tightly covered container.
Ingredients For the Pasta Salad:
- 1/2 Pound Farfalle Pasta - Cooked to package instructions - al dente, drained and cooled
- 1 bunch Asparagus - Woody ends trimmed & discarded; stalks cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon Saffron Threads - Crushed with the back of a spoon
- 2 Garlic Cloves - Minced
- 1 Medium Red Onion - Finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/2 Pound Medium Shrimp - Peeled and deveined
- 1/2 Pint Cherry Tomatoes - Sliced in half length-wise
- 1/2 Cup Basil (loosely packed) - Chiffonade (cut into thin ribbons) and reserve several whole leaves for garnishing
- 1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
- In a small dish, combine a tablespoon of boiling water with the crushed saffron threads, stir and let stand.
- Wash the asparagus spears, remove the woody ends and chop the spears into 1 inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a roiling boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, generally 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the pasta shape and size.
- One minute before the pasta is finished cooking, add the asparagus.
- Drain and cool the cooked pasta and asparagus into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Once fully drained add the pasta to a large bowl or container.
- Toss the saffron mixture and drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta to keep it from sticking together.
- Set aside if using immediately or refrigerate until finishing the pasta salad.
- Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
- When the oil begins to shimmer, add in the onions and garlic, lower heat and saute until the onions and garlic begin to slightly caramelize and turn a light golden colour and begin to smell nutty and fragrant. This should take between 8 to 10 minutes. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to keep the mixture from burning.
- Once the onion and garlic mixture is caramelized, transfer the mixture to a bowl.
- Use the same pan and increase heat to medium high and add another tablespoon of olive oil; add in the red pepper flakes and toast them in the oil for 30 seconds.
- Add in the cleaned and peeled shrimp and saute until they turn opaque and pink.
- Transfer the peppered shrimp to the bowl with the onion mixture.
- When ready to make the pasta salad, add the shrimp and onion mixture into the pasta and asparagus, stirring to incorporate.
- Add in the sliced cherry tomatoes and the chiffonade of basil.
- If serving immediately, toss the pasta salad with the Champagne Vinaigrette and stir gently to incorporate.
- Garnish each plate with some of the toasted pine nuts and top with a whole basil leaf.