Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Quick Dinner? Grab the Peanut Butter!

When I was young I loved to read my mother's "ladies'" (not women's, no sir!) magazines. The Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping featured women scurrying around the house making everything perfect for their lovely children and wonderful husband, makeup impeccably applied and hair freshly coiffed for the moment when their man walked in the door from his hard day at the office.

A recurring feature over the years, no doubt endlessly entertaining to the wives at their bridge parties, was a wacky idea called "breakfast for dinner" where the family would dress in pajamas and have pancakes and sausages instead of steak and potatoes. ("Imagine the squeals of delight from the young ones!")

I've never been a big fan of American breakfasts in general, so the idea of making it for dinner doesn't really appeal, either. So when I need a quick dinner solution, I grab the peanut butter from the fridge and some frozen shrimp or chicken from the freezer and make an Asian-inspired pasta dish that can include whatever green and crunchy things (peas, green onions, etc.) are in your veggie drawer. Pajamas, while appropriate any time of day around here, are obviously optional.

Pasta with Peanut Sauce, Snap Peas and Shrimp
Sauce adapted from All Around the World Cookbook by Sheila Lukins

For the peanut sauce:
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1/2 c. light coconut milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
6 Tbsp. peanut butter
3 Tbsp. peanut oil or vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. chili oil or 1/2 tsp. red chile flakes
1/2-1 tsp. Thai fish sauce (nam pla)

For the pasta:
1 lb. pasta or 9 oz. buckwheat soba
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 c. sliced snap peas (or other crunchy green things)
1/2 lb. frozen shrimp
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Bring large pot of water to boil. While it heats, put all sauce ingredients into bowl of food processor and process until it makes a smooth sauce. When pot of water boils, add pasta and cook till al dente. While pasta cooks, heat vegetable oil in skillet and sauté peas briefly, then add shrimp. When shrimp turn pink, remove from heat. Drain pasta and put in serving bowl. Add peas and shrimp and half of sauce (the remainder is terrific as a dipping sauce with salad rolls or raw veggies). Toss and garnish with cilantro leaves.

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