Notes From Swan's Nest


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Lenten Meals

My husband Randy and I had the best Ash Wednesday dinner last night – Pasta Primavera with Shrimp. I was in the house all day with the wood floor installers and didn’t have a chance to get to the supermarket, so an hour before dinner, I opened the fridge and cupboards to see what my options were. Lots of fresh veggies in the crisper, a block of Romano cheese in the drawer below, a package of thin spaghetti and a can of vegetable broth in the vault, and a partial bag of shrimp in the freezer – everything I needed to put together a tasty, meatless dinner in less than an hour.

Now before I go any farther, you may be asking why I keep spaghetti and vegetable broth in a vault! The answer goes back 112 years to when Swan’s Nest was constructed. The owner and designer of the house, Ben Revett was a gold baron, and he built our home as a gift for his bride. The smaller kitchen we’re currently using was originally Ben Revett’s office, and he had a gold vault built adjacent to his office to store his fortune. With rock walls 2-feet thick and steel rails in the ceiling, it was a secure place to store the gold he dredged from nearby rivers and streams.

Since I’m a little short on gold, we converted the vault into a butler’s pantry with storage for wine and glassware, plus a temporary mini-pantry. Once the large kitchen addition is complete in a few weeks, I’ll move food items into my new spacious pantry, and the gold vault will become a wine vault.

So, let’s get back to last night’s dinner because I know you’re looking for something tasty, quick, inexpensive, and ideal for Lenten Friday’s. While the water is heating for the pasta, chop 2 stalks of celery, a small onion, a green bell pepper, broccoli, and a small bunch of asparagus, place the veggies on a large platter and set it aside. Place the frozen raw shrimp into a medium bowl, fill with cold water, and set it aside to thaw, about 15 minutes.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat for the vegetables, and peel the shrimp, placing them on a paper towel to dry. When the water comes to a boil, add coarse salt and the spaghetti, and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Pour 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into a Pyrex measuring cup and set it aside, then drain the spaghetti in a colander, reserving a few tablespoons of pasta water in the bottom of the pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and a dash of coarse salt to the pot, swirl to mix, and return the drained pasta to the pot, tossing well.

While the pasta is cooking, pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into the skillet and add onion, celery and broccoli, stirring frequently until they are almost crisp-tender. Stir in the bell pepper, asparagus, and 2 cloves of minced garlic, and cook several minutes until they are almost crisp-tender. Deglaze the pan with 1/3 cup vegetable broth and 1/3 cup of the reserved pasta water, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook 2 minutes until the liquid in reduced by half. Season the veggies with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Preheat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the shrimp, and cook until the bottoms turned pink, about 1 minute. Turn them over and cook 1-2 minutes more. Sprinkle the shrimp with Cajun seasoning and deglaze the pan with 3 tablespoons vegetable broth, stirring well to scrape cooking bits from the bottom of the pan. To serve, transfer the pasta to serving bowls, top with sautéed vegetables and the shrimp, along with juices from the pans. Garnish with freshly grated Romano cheese and enjoy a fabulous Friday meal. Scrumptious!

Cook’s Note: The shrimp may be sautéed with the vegetables, but for allergy reasons, I cook them separately.