Friday, September 12, 2008

sicilian pasta with shrimp & almond cream

Sicilian Pasta with Shrimp & Almond Cream (large)

I made this recipe before the Olympics and I'm just now posting it. Isn't that terrible? But what was it about the Olympics that was so captivating this year? Despite my relative lack of interest in watching sports on TV -- except Notre Dame football, of course (*cough*GoIrishBeatMichigan*cough*) -- I found myself glued to the television every night for two weeks while the athletes were competing. Track cycling quarter finals? I'm on it! Badminton at 3am? Count me in! Sometimes I even found myself staying up late to watch athletes from countries that I'm not entirely sure I could locate on a map. Seriously -- Burkina Faso? Djibouti? (Don't lie -- you know you wouldn't do any better.) Apparently I wasn't alone, though, since two-thirds of the American population tuned in. I think for me, this was the first Olympics where I was really able to understand -- and even relate to -- the kind of effort it takes to be successful at that level. With so many make-or-break, almost-doesn't-count moments, I could barely tear myself away. What kept you watching this year?

Those of you who subscribe to the Williams-Sonoma catalog might have noticed a reference to this recipe in one of the recent issues. It wasn't immediately obvious to me why Williams-Sonoma would choose this recipe for their catalog, so I decided to find out for myself. Plus, I was intrigued by the title of "Almond Cream" for what was clearly a tomato-based dish. I was delighted to discover that recipe is just like my other Williams-Sonoma favorites: simple, fresh, and completely delicious -- and not to mention cream free. However, before I can credibly sing its praises, I have to confess that I made a mistake in the cooking process. As I was typing this up, I realized that I used almost twice as many tomatoes as the recipe calls for. Deal breaker? No, not by a long shot. The sauce had great depth and I loved it, but I'm sure it didn't have the almond flavor it was supposed it. No matter -- this is definitely a recipe I'm willing to make again.

Sicilian Pasta with Shrimp & Almond Cream
Adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe
Serves 4

6 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 1/4 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 pound short, wide tubular pasta, or medium shells
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails intact
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl or in the base of an immersion blender, combine the almonds, tomatoes, olive oil, water and the 1 tsp. salt. Using an immersion blender, blend until the mixture is almost smooth, with just a few chunks of tomato remaining, about 3 minutes. (Alternatively, pulse in the bowl of a food processor.) Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Set aside.

In a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the almond mixture, stir until well combined, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the cooking water and the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Add the pasta and stir to coat with the sauce. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.

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