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A little soft shoe May 23, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Eating Down the Fridge, Food, random stuff.


So a couple of weeks ago, I wrestled the remote control away from Peeps . . . actually, that’s not completely true.  I think it was a Saturday morning or something when he wasn’t wasn’t home.

Anyway, I discovered that we had the Cooking Channel.  It must be new, because I don’t think we’ve always had it.  But then, I don’t spend much time with the remote control, either, so there’s that.

Not only did we have the Cooking Channel, but Mark Bittman, of The Minimalist Fame, has an actual show on actual TV now.

Who knew?

So I set up the DVR to record it – after all, I’ve read his column for years, and I’ve enjoyed his video clips, so I figured why not?

And sure enough, there’s been something every single time that make me sit up and say “huh, we should try that.”

One of the things I really like about The Minimalist is that his style of cooking is very much like mine.   He doesn’t so much stick to an actual recipe as he just sort of, well, he puts things together.

A pinch of this, a handful of that – kind of the way my mother makes potato salad.

Fun fact:  Did you know that Mark Bittman was, once upon a time, a writer, then an editor, for Cook’s magazine, which later became Cook’s Illustrated?  Yup.


So anyway, when we watched the pasta show, and we saw him do this pasta with soft-shelled crabs, my first thought was “huh, we could do that with shrimp.”

Actually my first thought was “eew, those crabs have EYEBALLS on them!”

Then I thought about shrimp – without eyeballs.  Cleaned and deveined, actually.

The kind we happened to have just languishing away in the freezer.


And I even went a step further and thought, instead of the garlic and parsley that Mark used (and believe you me, we do love our garlic and parsley!), but instead of that, what would happen if we used a few fresh ramps that I’d picked up at the market?

You remember ramps – wild leeks.  The very first fresh vegetable of spring in this part of the world.

After all, isn’t that kind of the spirit of The Minimalist – taking what you’ve got and making it into something lovely?


So we took what we had – which was about a pound of shrimp and a few (four) really big, last of the season ramps.

And some knowledge – technique, if you will.

Paying attention.

The first thing we did was we chopped our ramps.  We know that the bulbs are much like garlic and the leaves are kind of like an herb, in that we’re going to want to cook them at different times – the bulbs got sliced and and the greens got chopped, and they were kept separate.

Then we started heating some olive oil in a deep skillet.

Keeping in mind that the ingredients are very few, we wanted to use the best olive oil we could – we broke out the extra virgin stuff.  It got heated over an ever-so-low flame, along with the ramp bulbs and a pinch of crushed red pepper.


Once that was started, in went the shrimp, and the pan got lidded.

Shrimp cooks fast – ridiculously fast. One minute it’s gray and slimy, and the next, well, it’s a curled up pink rubber band.  And that is Not Cool.

We kept the flame ever-so-low — after all, we weren’t going anywhere, and we still needed to cook the pasta anyway.

And when the shrimp is done, it’s done.  It will have exuded some of its moisture, but, ideally, not all of it.  Take the shrimp out of the pan and don’t let it cook anymore.  Cold shrimp is better than rubbery shrimp.


Speaking of the pasta.

Two things on that, actually.

The first is – finish cooking it in the sauce.  The sauce won’t get watery, the pasta won’t get overcooked, and it’ll just taste better.

What sauce, you ask?

Well, when your pasta is almost done, you’re going to want to scoop a cup or so of the pasta water out of the pot before straining it.  That starchy liquid will actually help thicken what will become your sauce.

How cool is that?


At this point, we dump everything into the saute pan – the pasta, the shrimp, the ramp leaves, a bit of black pepper, and the pasta water.  Toss it  together – yes, it’ll look thin, but let it simmer a minute – the pasta (that’s not QUITE done yet) will soak it up, finish cooking AND all the flavors will have a chance to mingle and get to know each other better.

So. . . how do you like to change up a recipe to better suit your kitchen/pantry/refrigerator?

The printable version of this recipe is right here.



1. Kimberly - May 23, 2012

“Cold shrimp is better than rubbery shrimp.”

True ‘dat. Also, raw shrimp is better than precooked shrimp. Why in the world do people keep buying precooked shrimp?

I don’t make many interesting substitutions in my kitchen 😦 Sometimes some real obvious stuff, like shallots instead of onions, one kind of bean for another, panko instead of “italian” bread crumbs, etc. Sometimes I will substitute chicken or shrimp for each other in a recipe. Again, nothing too exciting!

Those ramps you guys used are huge!

Toy Lady - May 24, 2012

Ugh – precooked shrimp! 😦 One time, I bought a little can of salad shrimp (I was young) planning to make a shrimp salad. It was one of the more disgusting things I’ve tried. 🙄

And yes, the ramps were huge – I knew it would be the last time I’d see them at the market until next year.

2. judy - May 23, 2012

Now I am dying over here in the nm state. You have to stop cooking this yummie looking stuff or I have to stop reading about it! ha ha 🙂

Toy Lady - May 24, 2012

Yeah, well, you’ve got fresh tomatoes already, don’t you? I just got mine in the ground. 🙂

judy - May 24, 2012

I wish about the tomatoes already. We have tiny, tiny green ones and lots of blossoms so it will be a while yet. 🙂

Toy Lady - May 24, 2012

Still. . . I don’t even have buds yet, let alone wee little green ones.

But I would be happy to share my garlic scapes with you (any minute now – I can FEEL it!). 😉

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