Dear old, long-lost friend, how did I forget you?
You came back to me the other day, as I surveyed some particularly gorgeous fresh caught shrimp from North Caroline, and wondered what to do with them.
Through the grey mists of time emerged the very first recipe I ever wrote.
Back in the early 80’s, sun-dried tomatoes were the big “new” thing, so, as I do to this day, I set about experimenting with them. One day, as I opened the package, I spied a notice on the back which said that the California Sun-Dried Tomato growers were sponsoring a competition for the best original recipe making use of this new wonder-product. Best of all, the winner was going to win what, to me in those days, was a huge sum! It seemed to me to be the obvious sure-fire way to keep my jalopy on the road, maybe even cover a couple of months rent, and find the fame and fortune as a cook that were surely coming my way.
I was off and running and convinced that the prize was to be mine. I tried numerous things, and finally decided that this recipe was the sine qua non of sun-dried tomato recipes.
I sent it off and waited and waited and waited. You know the end of this story: One day, the winner was announced and, by some complete fluke/miscarriage of justice (or so it seemed to me) I was not the winner.
Now in retrospect, I think my surprise speaks to my life-long habit of optimism (delusion?) and expectation that amazing and wonderful things will happen to me. For the most part, I haven’t often been wrong , and, am even a little bit proud of that kooky girl who thought that surely her recipe was best in all the land.
Actually, I’m even prouder of her that, despite her setback, she kept right on cooking and experimenting and expecting success to come her way.
Soon enough, the nation’s fixation with sun-dried tomatoes waned, as did my own. Over time, I stopped making the best recipe ever created featuring sun-dried tomatoes and even forgot it existed.
I found sun-dried tomatoes still on the grocery shelf when I went to recreate this the other day, though in a bottle packed in olive oil, and not in that little cellophane package. Though I couldn’t come up with a written copy of my submission, it all came back to me in a minute.
This recipe is a snap shot of a moment in time, when sun-dried tomatoes were the coolest thing around, and a young women, just setting out, expected life to bring all good things. I may have been a cock-eyed optimist, but I must say, this still makes for a really great dinner.
Pasta with Shrimp and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings
1 pound whole-wheat Spaghetti or other dried pasta of your choice.
6 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut to 1 ” dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 pound mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 cup heavy whipping cream (1/2 & 1/2 may be substituted)
3 tablespoons, diced bottled sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 pounds fresh, peeled and cleaned shrimp
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano for serving (optional)
Put a large pot of salted water on to cook the pasta, and cook it according to directions.
In the meantime, place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and shallots and continue cooking and stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and keep cooking and stirring until they are nicely browned and have stopped releasing liquid, about 8 minutes. Add the cream, sun-dried tomatoes and frozen peas, and allow it to gently simmer about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook just until it is pink, being careful not to over cook it.
Drain the pasta once it’s ready and combine with the pasta sauce. Serve immediately, accompanied by grated Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.