SIMPLE SUPPERS: LEMON HERB SHRIMP OVER PASTA

When I get off work on a Friday afternoon when the weather is nice, I cannot wait to get the weekend started. I typically don't feel like making complicated food... I want it to be fast, easy and delicious. This dish is so simple to whip up for a couple or a couple dozen guests. The key is to use fresh herbs and the best shrimp you can find. For me, that is Alabama Gulf shrimp... I'm lucky to have easy access to it. Frozen shrimp will work if that is what you can get but oh my, what a difference you will taste if you use fresh shrimp. Make this for supper and serve it with some toasty bread and a nice chilled glass of white wine and you've got a good start on a relaxing weekend.

LEMON HERB SHRIMP OVER PASTA

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1 pound fresh Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on

1 cup seafood stock (I make my own using the shrimp shells but you can use the boxed kind)

1/2 cup white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)

1 lemon, sliced

 1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Hot cooked angel hair or pasta of your choice... I use angel hair because it only takes a few minutes to cook.

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the pasta per package directions to al dente. Set aside.

In a large skillet or saucepan over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once it is hot, add the smashed cloves of garlic and saute. Tilt the pan to make sure the oil covers the garlic and cook it for 2 minutes to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor. Cut the tops off of the tomatoes and crush them with your hand into the pan, squeezing all the juice from them. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and oregano. Break the tomatoes into small pieces and cook for one minute. Add the wine and the stock. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Check the seasoning. You may need to add a bit more salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and allow them to cook for 2 minutes. Squeeze the lemon halves over the shrimp and drop both halves into the pan.  Flip the shrimp and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side or just until the shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat. Add the butter. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the shrimp and sauce. Add the parsley and some Parmesan, if desired.

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COCKTAIL RECIPE: MOSCOW MULE (OPRAH'S FAVORITE DRINK)

Way back in like, 2008, I was driving in the car and had on Oprah Radio-- I heard Oprah raving about her favorite summer drink, the Moscow Mule. I was curious so I had to try it. I thought it was very refreshing and easy to drink. Best of all, they are easy to make. You'll need ginger beer, which you can find at most grocery stores these days or at an International market like World Market. And use fresh lime juice. Not the squeezy stuff.... You are supposed to serve a Moscow Mule in a copper mug and it may just be me but I do think they taste better in the copper. There are tons of places to buy these now- online and in the stores but hey- serve your Moscow Mules in a julep cup, a coffee cup, or a plastic cup---who cares?

THE MOSCOW MULE

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 ounces vodka ( I prefer Tito's for this drink)

1 teaspoon simple syrup (make it with equal parts sugar and water- heat til sugar dissolves, cool)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 cup ginger beer

1 sprig fresh mint

slice of lime

ice

DIRECTIONS:

Pour vodka over ice. Add simple syrup and lime juice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with mint and lime.

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RECIPE: DARK CHERRY CLAFOUTIS (Fluffy french dessert)

Clafoutis (pronounced kla fou TEE) is a rustic dessert, traditionally made with black cherries, eggs, milk, sugar, and flour. Clafoutis is French, but don't be intimidated. It's simple and rustic, but can be very elegant. I've made it for a dinner party and also when camping! The batter puffs up around the fruit and the edges get browned and a little crusty; it's delicious. It rises and puffs up as it bakes; much like a Dutch Baby, if you are familiar with that. The taste is a bit like a custard but it isn't as creamy. Clafoutis, served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of heavy cream is one of my very favorite desserts... and once you taste it, you'll add it into your regular dessert rotation. Serve it in the skillet for an impressive presentation. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can also bake this dessert in a buttered baking dish but youneed to watch it carefully if you do because the timing may be different.

You can also make Clafoutis with different fruit. I like it with pears or apples, too.

Dark Cherry Clafoutis recipe

DARK CHERRY CLAFOUTIS

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

6 eggs

6 tablespoons sugar

1 ¼ cup milk

Pinch salt

¾ cups of all-purpose flour

3 cups pitted cherries (don't get the canned cherries in heavy syrup. Use the 24.7 ozbottle of Dark Morello Cherries in light syrup, if you can find them. Drain them well. Or you can use fresh*)

Confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a large cast iron skillet or baking dish.

Combine vanilla, eggs, sugar, milk, and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend for a few seconds until combined and then add the flour and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. (if you don't have a blender, you can just whisk until well combined, the sugar is dissolved, and batter is smooth. Whip it really well.)

Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Cover the top evenly with the well-drained cherries. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Don't be tempted to open the oven during baking or the Clafoutis may fall. Serve warm. Dust the top with powdered sugar or serve with a drizzle of heavy cream.

NOTE: When using fresh fruit, put the butter in the skillet and let it melt. Once it has, add about a pound of  fresh, pitted Bing cherries to the butter and let them cook to soften for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and stir until the juice thickens into a syrup. Pour the batter over the fruit and bake as directed above.

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