Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

I’m a pasta girl.  I always have been.

I am legitimately half Italian, so I guess I come by it honestly.  But, truly, if I didn’t think my husband would object, I’d have absolutely no problem eating pasta for dinner every single night.

And, this particular pasta?

It’s everything.

It’s rich and filling from the cream sauce yet bright and fresh from the lemon.  The shrimp and vegetables add pops of color and flavor and keep it from seeming too heavy.  (See, I had spinach with my heavy cream.  Antioxidants!  Iron!).

Oh, and did I mention it’s easy?  If you prep a little bit ahead of time – zest and juice the lemons and chop the vegetables, you can totally cook this baby in about 25 minutes flat.

Win.

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp (31/35 count), peeled & deveined
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. penne (or any short pasta)
  • ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. In a large (12”) nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side until they are cooked through. Remove the cooked shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic to the remaining olive oil. Cook for one minute.
  3. Add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water with a handful of kosher salt to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and put back in the pot.
  5. Add the thickened lemon cream sauce to the pasta in the pot. Add tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Stir together to coat with the sauce. Let the mixture cook on low for 3-5 minutes until the sauce is mostly absorbed into the pasta, and it coats the other ingredients.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and stir to combine.
  7. Serve hot with extra parmesan cheese, if desired.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Smoked Salmon & Spinach Puffs

smoked salmon & spinach puffs | sunsets on the side

smoked salmon & spinach puffs | sunsets on the side

How was everyone’s holiday?  I hope it was magical and relaxing.  In fact, I hope the relaxation portion is still going strong and continuing through your weekend.

But, I guess the biggest question of the day is whether we’ve recovered enough to be ready for New Year’s appetizer ideas?

New Year’s Eve is such a funny holiday.  There tends to be a lot of hype and some clutching on to holiday season remnants.  Buy, hey.  Any celebration based around champagne cocktails and fancy appetizers is one I’m happy to support.  We usually keep our New Year’s activities very low-key: drinks and apps at our good friends’ house, which is conveniently within walking distance.  That’s, um…come in handy a time or two before.

This year, though, we have a New Year’s Eve wedding, complete with a grand venue and built-in fireworks.  I’m excited to have such a valid reason to get all jazzed up and go out on the town.  Did that make me sound…old?

smoked salmon and spinach puffs | sunsets on the side

Anyway, since we’re heading out for New Year’s, I thought we’d get our fix of homemade, fun-sized food this weekend.  These little puff pastry nibbles would be perfect if you’re hosting this year.  They’re tasty and light, and they’re easy to make ahead.  You could put these together the morning of the party, leave them in the fridge all day, and then just bake them right before your guests arrive.

Or, you could bake some for lunch, eat them yourself, and then bake the rest right before your guests arrive.  No one here is judging.

Just a couple things to note for this recipe.  First, get as much of the liquid out of the spinach as you can.  Water in the spinach makes for a watery filling, so I let the spinach thaw totally and then squeeze the water out with my hands.  It’s a cold job, but it’s the best way to get dry spinach.  Also, you want the puff pastry to be as cold as possible, so I stick it in the refrigerator the day before I want to use it and let it defrost there overnight.  Then, I keep one sheet in the fridge while I’m working with the second sheet.  The cold butter in the pastry is what causes it to puff in the oven, so softened butter leads to improper puffing.

Say that five times fast.

Smoked Salmon & Spinach Puffs
 
Author:
Makes: 28 puffs
Ingredients
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted & water squeezed out
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 T. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 oz. smoked salmon, minced
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the spinach (it may spit at you a bit, depending on how dry you got the spinach, so be careful when you put it in the pan), salt, and pepper and cook just enough to warm and separate the spinach, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the wine, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has been almost completely absorbed by the spinach. Remove from heat and add the mascarpone. Stir until completely combined. Let the mixture cool slightly and then stir in the smoked salmon and Monterey jack.
  5. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry out onto a well-floured surface (keep the other sheet in the refrigerator so it stays cold while you work). Roll it out with a rolling pin until the sheet measures 10” by 12”. Using a 1 ¾” square cookie cutter (or whatever size/shape you like), cut the puff pastry into 28 small squares.
  6. In a small bowl, beat the egg and a splash of water with a fork until combined.
  7. To make the puffs, take 2 of the pastry squares, and brush the outside edges with egg wash. Place about ½ tsp. of the spinach filling into the middle of one of the squares (don’t overfill or you won’t be able to seal them). Place the other pastry square on top and, using a fork, crimp all the edges to seal.
  8. Repeat with the remaining squares and then with the second sheet of puff pastry. Brush the top of each puff with the egg wash, and sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Bake for 16-18 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Spinach & Artichoke Twice-Baked Potatoes

spinach-artichoke-twice-baked-potatoes

spinach-artichoke-twice-baked-potatoes

Do you have a hard time answering the question, “what’s your favorite food?”  I do.  It changes by the day.  It changes by the time of day.

But, if I really had to think hard and commit to an answer, it would, most likely, be mashed potatoes.  I love mashed potatoes.

Like…I love them.

My Mom made us mashed potatoes almost every Saturday night throughout my entire childhood, and I never, ever got tired of them.  Actually, I still request them every time I’m home.

And, twice-baked potatoes were such a treat.  A baked potato and mashed potatoes all in one?  Yes, please!  For whatever reason, they tended to show themselves only on birthdays and other occasions for specially-requested foods.  So, they still feel like a treat to me.  Traditional twice-bakeds are wonderful, and I’ve started playing with different flavor combinations to ramp them up a bit.  Twice-baked potatoes meet spinach and artichoke dip…  Yes, I think so.

Spinach & Artichoke Twice-Baked Potatoes
 
Author:
Makes: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 large baking potatoes
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (9 oz.) bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 4 oz. fontina, grated
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 (6.5-oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pierce clean potatoes with a fork multiple times. Place directly on the oven rack and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and the inside is soft. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the olive oil and let cook until spinach is wilted, about 7-8 minutes. Let cool and then push against a mesh strainer to squeeze out the excess liquid.
  3. When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice each in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh (leaving enough of a border that the potato halves hold their shape) into a large mixing bowl. Brush the inside of each emptied potato half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set on a baking sheet.
  4. Add cream cheese, butter, sour cream, ¾ of the fontina, and the ¾ tsp. salt to the potatoes. Mix with a hand mixer until completely smooth. Fold in the spinach and chopped artichokes. Scoop even portions of the potato mixture into the empty potato halves. Sprinkle the tops with shredded parmesan and the remaining fontina.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through.