Friday, March 25, 2011

Spaghetti with Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi is a great Italian classic: Simple, quick and delicious. You may choose to eat it just as sauteed shrimp in a light sauce, dunking your toasted bread into this refreshing sauce; or you can add pasta to the equation to make it a really fulfilling meal.

If you choose to add pasta, keep in mind this is one of those rare times when pasta has to wait for the sauce (i/o the other way around which should usually be the case); since shrimp can go very fast from raw to overcooked (which makes it rubbery), and this sauce cooks very quickly, prepare your pasta first (and also all the other ingredients for the sauce).

The origin of this recipe is Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, but as usual I had to make my own adjustments..:)

Ingredients: (Serves 2-4)

  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced (about 7-8 cloves)
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  • In a large pot, bring water to a boil; add salt (I add 2 teaspoons). Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente (this usually takes 10-11 minutes). Drain pasta completely in a colander, put back into the pot and set aside.
  • In a large (12-inch) pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, just until fragrant. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, stirring often, for a total of 4 minutes (if you choose to use large or jumbo shrimp, saute them for 2 minutes per side, flipping them with tongs).
  • Remove from heat. Add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
  • Add the pasta to the pan (or add the sauce to the pasta pot). Toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chocolate-Banana-Walnut Cake

This cake is kind of the ultimate banana cake for me. I love the flavor of banana in a cake, but often, banana cakes end up quite wet and sticky, because most banana cake recipes call for adding mashed bananas into the batter; if you use a recipe that add more flour to balance the wetness, then you end up with a tough and flavorless cake. Well, this one is different...
The batter is simple, but tasty; you use sliced bananas instead of mashed; the combination of banana and chocolate is wonderful anyway; plus there's a sugar-egg white-walnut glaze over the cake. All these layers make this cake fun and special.

I found this recipe in an old Everyday with Rachel Ray issue recently, while waiting at the dentist's office, and revised it a little bit to simplify it for myself.

A few years ago I had subscribed to Rachel Ray's magazine for a whole year to help a charity. Although I completely respect her genius idea of "30 minute meals", I do not really care much for her recipes; that was also the case when I was receiving the magazine every month. But I was always interested in one section: Silvana Nardone's dessert recipes. She was the editor-in-chief of the magazine until August 2008 and is a great baker who always has these foolproof, special recipes ( And this cake is one of them...

Ingredients: (Serves 8-12)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup walnuts


  • Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan, spray with no-stick cooking spray with flour.
  • In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar and the 2 eggs until pale yellow for 2 minutes. Whisk in the butter. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined.
  • Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and top with half of the banana slices and half of the chocolate chips; repeat with the remaining batter, bananas and chocolate.
  • In a food processor, finely grind 1/4 cup of the walnuts with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Add the egg white and process until smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Coarsely chop the remaining walnuts and sprinkle over the cake.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Additional points:

If you do not have a springform pan, you can bake this cake in a 8x8-inch square pan or in a 9-inch round pan. Or you can double the recipe and bake it in a 13x9-inch pan.
For all those cases (since we do not want to invert this cake to take it out of the pan) layer the pan with parchment paper which should hang over the edges for 1-2 inches (use 2 layers of parchment paper if needed), so you can lift the cake out of the pan by holding the edges of paper (after it's cooled).