Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Penne with shrimp and herbed cream sauce

Add this to your repertoire: I've been making this for awhile, but for some reason have neglected to post about it. It's very simple and comes together fast, especially if you get shrimp that is already peeled and deveined. When I do the peeling and deveining myself, I like to leave the tails on, because I prefer the way they look. However, this means you often have to twist off the tail by hand mid-meal, much to the husband's chagrin. He doesn't like to get his fingers shrimpy whilst eating a bowl of pasta. Doesn't bother me. Who am I, Emily Post? I suppose a more civilized household might employ what are known as "knives" to trim off the tail; not so here.

The one addition I have made to this recipe, which was at the husband's suggestion, was adding asparagus. This is reminiscent of a dish I am wildly fond of at Pasta Pomodoro (egads! a chain!), which is pasta shells in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce studded with shrimp and asparagus. I've been known to eat this dish at 10:30am while everyone else is ordering brunchy fare, like poached eggs and French toast.

Giada's sauce is not as delightfully spicy as Pasta P's; I'll have to bump up the red pepper flakes in the future. But in most other ways, it is similar. Here's the link to her recipe. As for the asparagus, I trimmed it, cut in into one-inch lengths, blanched it in the pasta water, then added it to the sauce along with the shrimp at the end.

I'm pretty sure whoever you make this for will fall in love with you (unless they have a shellfish allergy, which would make it a tragic lovestory), so be strategic. Don't say I didn't warn you when you're fighting off someone's unwanted amorous, shrimpy paws.

Gimme your money, then beat it: The other day, the husband and I had a spectacular afternoon: lunch at Out the Door (daikon rice cakes with spicy soy sauce and shitake mushrooms/vermicelli bowls with five spice chicken and imperial rolls/a carafe of wine--perfection!) followed by some leisurely book perusing. We weren't near my favorite bookstore, Green Apple, but fortunately, San Francisco does not hurt for bookstores, and we were a stone's throw from Browser Books. 

We each picked out three books. I brought the stack to the counter where the store owner? employee? grunted at me, flipped over the books, scanned them, then barked out the total. Once I'd paid, he shoved them in a plastic bag and literally swung them on the counter at me. When the bag slapped the counter, it sent a little puff of air into my face.

Why are people who work at bookstores so often surly, second only to record store employees? I don't need a standing ovation, but is it so old-fashioned to want a, "Hi, how are you? Did you find everything you were looking for?" or, upon leaving, "Thank you!" I mean, let's be honest: it's easier for me to order through Amazon. I choose to go to bookstores because I feel, in my heart, that they make a community warmer, richer, and better. This guy was not supporting this theory.

Anyway, I'm excited about the books. Here is what we got. Can you guess which three I chose and which three the husband picked out?


Crazy Town: Two odd things happened today. Not to me, but near me. The first was this morning, around 8am. I was just sitting down to work when I heard a commotion out front.

I peered through the slats of my shades and saw six people pour out of a cruddy looking car, right into my driveway (lucky me!). They were all yelling and taking swings at the other ones. Men and women both. It was like a big free for all! The car was stopped halfway in the street so traffic was having to go around them.

I was about to call the police when I saw one of the men winding up to smack one of the women, when all of a sudden, they abruptly shut up, piled back into the car, and drove away. The only trace they left behind was, disturbingly, a pair of bright pink underwear. Stranger still, when I looked out a few minutes later, the underwear was gone.

Then, this afternoon, while depositing some checks at the bank, all of a sudden I heard a man loudly cursing at some of the bank employees, hollering about having to wait. Like any longtime city dweller, within seconds I expertly assessed how close this lunatic was to me without actually appearing to look at him. (The last thing you want is eye contact.) Then, I surreptitiously identified the nearest exit.

To my surprise, this foul-mouthed character was not what I expected. He looked like a hipster, younger than me, conceivably someone I could be connected to on Facebook. He had a nifty little driving cap on and super stylie sneakers. The bank manager tried to placate him, which wasn't working out too well. The man was on a roll, a furious, expletive-chocked roll.

"That guy was in here earlier," the teller said to me softly as she finished my transaction. She looked at me with wide eyes. "I tried to help him and he yelled at me too. I'm not sure what's wrong with him. Wouldn't you be embarrassed to be yelling like that? If I were him I'd be so mortified."

"I'm pretty sure he's not embarrassed," I said to the teller, who looked about 12. She had her nails painted black and orange for Halloween. "I do, however, think he's a grade-A asshole."

I guess that's what you get from living in a city for a long time. You don't always feel sorry for people the way maybe you should, or consider the reasons that might cause them to act strangely or dangerously. You just want them to get the hell away from you.


  1. This post has so many aspects to comment on! First of all, the pasta is so pretty, I love how the shapes of the asparagus and penne echo each other, and the cream sauce sounds really good. Giada is pretty great.
    The mere mention of Pasta Pomodoro set my heart racing. We used to live a block away from one and it closed! I was heartbroken, they had the best roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce...
    I left city life a year ago and I know just what you mean about needing to make quick and accurate assessments of dicey situations. That's one aspect of city life I definitely do not miss.

  2. When I worked in the Civic Center I would often encounter people who were angry, apparently for no reason, and loud about it. Just mad. I got used to seeing women pee in the gutter, drug deals being made and drunks passed out in doorways, but those pink undies would truly have creeped me out.

  3. Sue: I know those brussels sprouts AND those ravioli--both great!

    Zoomie: Yeah, I used to work around there too, on Eddy & Van Ness--gross! One of the many things that catapulted me into self-employment was stepping over crack vials. Oh, San Francisco.

  4. Like The Husband, I, too, hate getting my fingers dirty when I'm eating something that should otherwise be eaten with a spoon or fork. (Burgers, fried chicken, and the like obviously don't fall into this category.)

    Yeah, why ARE bookstore employees so disagreeable? Seems like a pretty great job to me - surrounded by books all day long.

    And yes, city life has definitely dialled up my fight-or-flight instincts at the expense of a certain amount of empathy. I saw this guy on the metro a few weeks ago who seriously looked like a zombie. He had no shoes on, and he was staggering around and drooling, but not in a drunk way. Mostly I was worried he'd lurch in my direction, but when he finally exited the train, I started to wonder what his story was, and felt sad for the guy.

  5. Lots to comment on here!
    Great penne pasta dish, light and healthy!

    Re the books: I know which ones I'd read. Are they your choices? Spies, Never and Jonathan...only because I've read the others. :)
    Sadly, we have no small bookstores left here. Barnes and Noble is it.

    Odd things happening all around us. It's only going to get worse.

  6. Nice job, except you make me seem a little prissy. Needless to say, I overcome my shrimpy-finger phobia and clean my plate.

    As for the bookstore employee, yes, he was a dick. I used to work in a bookstore and I (usually) tried to be nice. However, I no longer work in customer service, so that probably says something about me.

    Glad I missed the violent clown car/undie scene. That's a small price to pay for working from home, though!

    There may be three of those books we will both read, so we do have some overlap.

  7. Ok, guessing yours is the Bourdain, Franzen and Ishiguro? Boy, I would be so intrigued by what happened to the pink undies!? That's probably just me.

    Sad to hear about the bad service, luckily so far all my bookstore experiences have been positive, but I know the type you mean.

    And the pasta sounds absolutely delish.

  8. camille: I agree, being a bookstore employee doesn't seem too bad! I'm sure it can be harder/more boring than it looks but basically it looks pretty pleasant!

    Barbara: the pasta dish is fab, though only slightly healthy, what with the cup of cream...

    slimmy: I'm just stating facts about the shrimp fingers though you certainly are not prissy. As for he books, I actually hope to read at least five of them.

    shaz: Are you psychic?!

  9. Loved reading this post. And if you're the one reading Bourdain, I would love to hear what you think about it at some point!

  10. Sounds like you got flashmobbed. Free urban theater right in your own driveway!
    Sadly, I was wondering for a second if the incident in the bank was faux. Glad you are safe.

  11. Connie: I believe we both will be reading the Bourdain eventually. Will let you know what I think!

    cookie: Totally. Flashmobbed!

  12. asparagus is an excellent addition--nice thinking. sounds like you live around a bunch of nuts--hope it doesn't rub off on you! :)

  13. Regarding the books: I loved Kitchen Confidential. Your pasta is pretty too.

  14. First, the pasta dish...its like Spring. Fresh, healthy and delicious. I like the idea of adding asparagus.

    I am always amazed at the random happenings.... I once saw in new Orleans sort of the same, where a car comes to an abrupt stop, people jump out, beat on each other, then jump back into the car and speed off-Bizarre.

    There are plenty of grade-A a**holes everywhere, The bad part is that you don't have to look far to find one (sigh).

  15. Agrigirl: I am looking forward to reading that.

    Velva: Wow, wonder if that was the same crew!

  16. Asparagus sets it off. Nice touch.

  17. Annette: Thanks to Giada for the good recipe! Glad you stopped by.