Pan-Seared Shrimp with Saffron Tomato Sauce

You’ve probably heard that saffron  is the most expensive spice on the planet.  Don’t be put off by that fact and neglect looking at some very interesting recipes.  Because saffron’s flavor is so strong, in most instances you only need a little.  Saffron is the signature flavor in such seafood dishes as bouillabaisse and paella and also in this dish that features shrimp in a tomato broth served over rice.  It is also the spice of choice when making risotto in the Northern provinces of Italy.

Saffron threads are actually the stigma of a particular variety of crocus.  Each flower bears only 3 of these stigma,which have to be carefully harvested by hand.  Somewhere around 50,000 flowers are needed to produce a single pound of saffron.  After harvest, the threads are delicately roasted over carefully tended wood fires.

When buying saffron look for a bright red-orange color and threads that are slightly pliable.  These characteristics are a sign of freshness, as saffron tends to darken and become  brittle as it ages.  Saffron is usually sold in specialty stores or in ethnic neighborhood markets.  It is packaged in tiny envelopes, and as long as they remain sealed the saffron will stay fresh.  I buy mine at an Italian foods market  in the city closest to where I live.

 

PAN-SEARED SHRIMP WITH SAFFRON TOMATO SAUCE

SERVES    4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails can be left on).
  • 3 Tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • pinch of saffron threads, crushed ( about 1/2 teaspoon )
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • cooked, short-grain rice for serving

PREPARATION

1.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and sauté to light golden color, about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2.  Stir in the wine and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer, then add the saffron.  Simmer for 1 minute so it dissolves.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 12-15 minutes.  Remove from heat, add fresh parsley and  keep warm

3.  Do not wipe out the pan.  Increase heat to med-high and add the last Tablespoon of oil and butter.  Once hot add the shrimp in a single layer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook till brown on one side.  Turn over and cook till brown on 2nd side, and opaque throughout, 1 1/2 – 2 minutes longer.

4.  To serve:  in a large serving dish, make a bed of rice, top with the shrimp and sauce.

SOURCE:     My Gourmet Connection

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When in Rome—

When in Rome, or anywhere in Italy, or a good Italian restaurant, do as they do, and eat Italian food. A well-known Italian restaurant in our area features this dish on their lunch-time menu throughout the summer months. I have had it there and loved it. It features a combination of eggplant, tomatoes and onions with fresh herbs served over penne pasta. A while back our local newspaper published this recipe for the dish, and I was so delighted that now I could prepare it at home. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.

Use the freshest eggplant and plum tomatoes you can find. Also lots of fresh basil or marjoram is key to the delicious blend of flavors. Serve with grated Romano cheese and crusty Italian Bread for a true restaurant-quality meal.

Roast Eggplant and Tomatoes with Penne Pasta

INGREDIENTS:

SERVES 4-6

  • 1 large eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon salt, plus more to sprinkle on the eggplant
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, cut vertically in wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh marjoram, oregano or basil chopped
  • 1 pound dry penne pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly grated Romano cheese

1. Place cubed eggplant in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Toss. Allow eggplant to drain at least 30 minutes. Rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick spray. Put the eggplant, tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs in the roasting pan. Pour the 1/4 cup oil over all and stir well to coat vegetables with oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread out into an even layer.

3. On the top rack in the oven, roast, stirring occasionally , until eggplant and onions are lightly browned, 25-35 minutes.

4. Meanwhile in large kettle, bring water to boil and cook penne to al dente (7 – 10 minutes). Drain. Immediately add to the roasting pan with the vegetables. Add chopped parsley and EVOO . Toss well. Transfer to a large serving dish. Serve with grated Romano cheese.

When I made this dish just recently, I omitted the pasta and in its place I added some meatballs I had in my freezer.  I browned them in a skillet on the stove top, then placed them on top of the vegetables to finish cooking in the oven. I served the whole thing with a green salad consisting of baby greens, cucumbers and green grapes; and also a small ear of fresh corn. (Still keeping a low profile with those carbs!)

SOURCE: Courtesy of Max A Mia restaurant.