The Simplest and Best Shrimp Dish Does Not Need Zoodles

Unless you're visiting your mother and she makes them for you

I’m on my way back from the Carolinas as we speak. Even with a 12-hour drive, I love visiting my mother; it’s a bonus during shrimp season, which is now. She lives right in the thick of it, where you can buy it from roadside stands or Georgetown docks and pick your size. That shrimp is so sweet, so of-the-moment: a freshness you can’t ship up North and replicate.

My mother also knows I’m trying to cut back on carbs, so in her effort to support me, she made zoodles (aka zucchini noodles), instead of pasta, while I made Mark’s shrimp. That’s why I’m here today (instead of Mark), writing why I have zoodles in our lead photo. Might I add: I’m fairly sure there’s no way Mark would ever make zoodles. (Actually, I’m wondering, how many of our readers would actually make zoodles?)

I’m here to defend the zoodle. Should you, like my mother, own your own zoodle-maker from Amazon, you, too, can drop them in a pan over medium-heat for 2 minutes, salt them in the meantime, then take them out of the pan, and dress them with great olive oil, lemon, pepper, mint, and a toasted nut of your choice. They’re not as majestic as, say, heirloom tomatoes or eggplants, but they’re worthy of acknowledgment, if not respect.

The other dishes for this week’s dinner: Grits gratin is great to serve with a salad bursting with vegetables. And pesto with pasta represents this week’s summer classic, though you can use that pesto on just about everything. The time is now.

The Simplest and Best Shrimp Dish

Makes: 4 servings
Time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 / 3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

  • 3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers

  • About 1 1 / 2 pounds shrimp, 20 to 30 per pound, peeled, rinsed, and dried

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 1/ 2 teaspoons hot paprika

  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

  • (If you want to add zoodles, I’d use two small zucchini’s worth)

Instructions

1. Warm the olive oil in a large, broad ovenproof skillet or heatproof baking pan over low heat. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Add the garlic and cook until it turns golden, a few minutes.

2. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, some salt and pepper, the cumin, and the paprika. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.

3. If you want to include the zoodles, sauté them in a pan with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt over medium heat until they soften slightly and become a little more pliant, 2 to 5 minutes. Toss with a some lemon juice if you like, then combine with the shrimp and serve.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything

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Grits Gratin with Arugula and Garlic

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 45 minutes with cooked grits

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan

  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 5 ounces baby arugula

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 recipe polenta, made with grits (see below) and molded as described in the gratin variation

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a shallow 2-quart gratin dish generously with oil.

2.Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When it is hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft, plump, and starting to color, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss gently once or twice, then spread the arugula and garlic in the prepared dish. Drizzle with vinegar.

3. Turn the polenta out of its pan (see recipe below) and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully arrange the pieces on top of the arugula, overlapping them a little if necessary. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the topping is golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve, topped with lots of pepper.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything

Polenta

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grits instead of coarse cornmeal

  • 1/2 cup milk (preferably whole)

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, or more

Instructions

1. Put the polenta in a large pot with a cup of water and whisk to form a smooth slurry. Whisk in the milk and a large pinch of salt and set the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium and cook, whisking frequently and adding more water, a little at a time to prevent lumps and to keep the mixture somewhat soupy. Expect to add another 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of water before the polenta is ready.

2. The polenta will be ready in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the grind. It will be thick and creamy with just a little grittiness and the mixture will pull away from the side of the pot when you stir. For soft polenta, you want a consistency about as thick as sour cream.

3. Immediately after cooking, spoon or pour the polenta into a buttered, flameproof 13x9 inch baking dish. Top with a cup of grated Pecorino or parmesan, and broil until the cheese browns and melts slightly.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything

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Pasta with Pesto

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts

  • Big bunch basil, about 10 stems

  • 2cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste

  • Olive oil as needed

  • Salt and pepper

  • Grated parmesan to taste

  • 1 pound pasta, any shape

Instructions

  1. Toast nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently, until fragrant, browned, and not burned. Pulse them in a food processor until chopped but not at all powdery.

  2. Wash the basil; dry it in a salad spinner. Put it in the food processor with the garlic and as much oil as you need to allow the machine to do its work. Process, adding salt, pepper, and oil as needed. When the pesto is smooth and delicious, stir in or pulse in the cheese.

  3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it's tender but not mushy. Dress with the pesto, thinning with a little of the cooking water if necessary. Serve immediately.

— From The New York Times

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