Shrimp, Meet Angel Hair

October 26th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Quick, Seafood

My daughters are 20 months apart in age. When they were babies, people would take one look at the hollowed-out shells that once housed our functioning selves and say It’s tough now, but you’ll be so grateful later when they play together. I thought these people were lying just to make me feel better. We were so in the thicket of “now” that we couldn’t imagine a “later.” I could not fathom these helpless little things entertaining each other, or a time when we would trade in defensive parenting — hovering, watching, reacting — for active parenting. Nor could I imagine a time when they’d actually sit down to a real meal with us. The sitting part stymied me, as did the “real meal” part. Their plates held not so much dinner as a poor man’s tapas selection: cubes of raw red peppers, microscopic pieces of chicken or shrimp, a little bowl of noodles. But I turned a corner the day I decided to marry two of those foods to make one: Angel Hair with Shrimp. It’s so simple it seems almost stupid, but it worked as a perfect inaugural family dinner because the shrimp and pasta mix together without fully integrating. So if it flops, you can always send the ingredients back to their separate corners. And if it works, the kids get a real meal, and you get a glimpse of your future.

Angel Hair with Shrimp

In a medium pot, cook angel hair as directed on package. Drain and toss with olive oil in the colander to prevent noodles from sticking. Return the pot to the stovetop and turn heat to medium. Add more olive oil, one chopped shallot (or 1/2 onion), one clove of garlic (minced), a few red pepper flakes (optional), salt and pepper, and cook about one minute, nestling garlic amidst the onions to prevent it from burning. Push to the side, turn up heat slightly, and add 3/4 pound of cleaned shrimp. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes on one side, then when you flip them over, pull in the onions and toss until everything is cooked through. Squeeze a little lemon on the shrimp, then add the angel hair, tossing to combine. Add a handful of chopped parsley, unless you think it will render prospects of consumption null and void.

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As Promised…Simple Family Dinner

April 26th, 2010 · 9 Comments · Dinner, Rituals

Ok, so you haven’t forgotten about this week’s family dinner, have you? Since you are following my every word, you remembered to pick a night this week when everyone was home, right? And since I am following your every word, I know that you want something easy. Like under 20 minutes easy. Here we go. Let me know how you do.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook 1 pound of orecchiette (or other small pasta) according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, while the pasta cooks, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Cook a 1/2 pound of sweet pork sausage (about two links or approximately the amount pictured above) whose casings have been removed. Break up the meat. After meat has lost its pink color, add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, and a handful of something green such as frozen peas or chopped broccoli florets (or broccolini) and cook about 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer sausage mixture to a bowl; add the pasta, a little butter, reserved pasta water, and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan. Add salt & pepper. Toss to combine.

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Family Dinner: Book It!

April 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment · Dinner, Kitchenlightenment, Rituals

Short of actually feeding you and your family a meal at my kitchen table, I can’t imagine there is anything more satisfying than hearing about the successes you’ve all had using recipes and advice from DALS. Last night my neighbor Bonnie left a message for me — there was unmistakable triumph in her voice as she described the dredging stations she had set up for Homemade Chicken Fingers that she planned on serving her kids. (“No chicken nuggets for us tonight!”) At an event honoring my mother-in-law in Virginia last week, I sat next to the nicest woman named Courtney who told me her husband was at home making Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken for her daughters. Kiera, a friend from high school who I haven’t seen or talked to in two decades let me know via facebook that Todd’s Minty Peas were a huge hit at her house. (Btw, based on the traffic report from that post, I’m thinking the keywords “minty peas” might be more poplular than “tiger woods affair.” Thanks Todd!!!)

The other thing I’m hearing a lot these days is this: Do you actually, truly, for real sit down with your family every night for dinner?

The answer is yes — for the most part. But… Do I sit down to a fresh-from-the-farmer’s market meal every night? No. Do my kids eat the same things that we do every night? No. Are both you and Andy home from work in time for dinner every night? No.

You may remember my “two out of three” rule for family dinner. It’s incredibly rare for everything to work out perfectly — and the way around this, I’ve found, is to: 1) lower your standards and 2) plow ahead anyway. Sometimes, it even means deciding on the night a few days ahead of time and then actually writing it in the calendar (or the chalkboard in my case) to give it as much weight as the soccer practice or the 6:00 (more…)

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