June 1, 2006

SHARK! (and pasta and chicken, but they aren't nearly as exciting)

Before we start, I'll admit that I've been sucking at my $5/day diet. Completely sucking. Great food has been gotten and made, but for much, much more money than I have. These recipes represent my attempts to get back into the austerity diet I so desperately need to follow.

First, an easy one. A month or so, when Meg and I ate at Al Dente, she ate a absolutely delightful dish involving a spicily sauced penne with asparagus. Since then, the combination hadn't left my mind. That April asparagus, was most likely South American, or at least from the Southwest United States, and it was good but since we're starting to get Jersey asparagus in the greenmarkets I figured it was time to act. I paired these beauties with a pink pesto sauce from Scarpetta (from the Gourmet Garage). The following recipe will be vague, as it involves following package directions and not killing the asparagus:

Penne with Asparagus in Pink Pesto Sauce
Serves 2
Prep: 15 min Cook: approximately 10 min


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 medium bunch Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths (see Cook's Notes)
  • 8 oz dried pasta (see Cook's Notes)
  • Vodka or Pink Pesto Sauce (we used Scarpetta)
Instructions: Boil water for pasta and asparagus simultaneously over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt to pasta water and remaining 1/2 tablespoon to asparagus water. Pour in pasta when water boils, following package instructions. After five minutes, add asparagus. Pour sauce into a third pot over low heat to warm. When asparagus turns bright green, 4 to 5 minutes, turn off heat, drain immediately and add asparagus to sauce. Toss asparagus in sauce and coat pasta when it reaches desired doneness.

Cook's Notes: To trim asparagus, hold each individual stalk by each end and bow it until it snaps. Read more about asparagus. It is so important that cooks salt their boiling water. For chemical reasons with vegetables and taste in mind for pasta. I remember reading that some restaurant chefs make his pasta water "as salty as the sea." It makes a huge difference.

Discussion: Simple, elegant, fast. The Scarpetta pink pesto sauce was really something special. Expensive, but special. Wait for it to go on sale again at the Gourmet Garage.

Chipotle-Lime Grilled Chicken
Gourmet, via Epicurious

I love Gourmet's quick kitchen and 10-Minute Mains sections. This Chipotle-Lime Grilled Chicken came out better than I ever expected; the meat was moist, the chipotle Tabasco sauce added a pleasant hint of spice, and the honey mellowed everything out. All that for about 30 minutes (including marinating). I was glad to use my grill pan; it made cute grill marks and didn't dry out the meat. Totally worth it ($10 at Target).

Mahimahi with Onions, Capers, and Lemon
Gourmet, via Epicurious

This was our second attempt at this recipe. Last time we used Lake Victoria red snapper with moderate success. The caper relish kicks serious ass and saved the dish even in the face of an imperfect fish choice.

The story as to how we ate this dish again isn't linear, but I'll try my best. I ventured out to the Union Square Farmer's Market on Wednesday to procure some fresh Jersey asparagus (see above) for the aforementioned recipe. At the market, I was somewhat disappointed to find my prized produce purveyed at only one stall. I walked around the whole place and slowed down by a fish stand. Fish at an open-air market still intrigues and confuses me. It's my mother's fault, I think - making me afraid of germs and stuff. Anyway, I surveyed the area and heard a familiar voice calling my name; a friend from college who I knew lived here but hadn't seen since graduation. We got to talking and, being a good eater, I asked him what the hot sellers were. They were apparently sold-out of all the popular stuff, but one ice-filled tray caught my eye. The fish was white with a bit of orangeness to the skin. Sandshark.

Ooooh. Sandshark. How cool is that. I bought 1/2 pound even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it. It completely made my day. I had a 30 minute subway ride to figure out how best to prepare our unexpected catch (the shark was on ice, so no germs. Right?). I settled on this recipe because I thought the meatier meatiness (as opposed to the snapper's flaky flakiness) would do the recipe good, especially considering I'd yet to make it with anything even remotely close to the mahimahi.

Totally worth it. Even if the shark might still kill us (that link is for the Oceans Alive consumption advice chart). Did I mention that the sandshark was only $6 per pound (shoot for 6 or so ounces per person)?

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