Friday nights are my favorite. As I’m sitting here writing this on a Sunday night, I’m really thinking about how much I love Fridays. They’re the beginning of two whole weekend days: a launching pad for a break from the long work week. While Saturday nights are great for adventures out on the town (do people still say that?), we like to spend our Friday nights at home. After a long week, coming home to my wife’s wonderful company, a generous glass of wine, and a great home-cooked meal makes me happier than most things in the world.
So this is an idea for a lovely date night in. Whether it is with a newer interest, or the one who has had your attention for some time, it is hard to beat warm weather, late sunsets, good music, and a little time in the kitchen together. The finished product of this recipe is also more than sufficient to impress a new interest, but easy enough that you won’t come off like a flustered Top Chef contestant while making it. So, turn off your phones, pour yourself (and that special someone) a glass of something that makes you smile, put on your favorite record (if you’re a hipster… or actually seasoned enough that it is not ironic), and enjoy the kind of romance that only pasta can bring.
We use quinoa linguine in this recipe. Quinoa linguine tastes similar to regular wheat pasta, but is packed with protein, has significantly less calories and is gluten free (i.e. better for you than regular pasta…) We get ours at Whole Foods, but I’ve seen some kind of quinoa-pasta product at most major grocery stores in the California Bay Area. It is even available on Amazon because… you know. Here is what you are looking for:
- 1 box of quinoa linguine
- 1 avocado
- 1 lemon
- 1 white onion, diced
- Red pepper flakes
- 8 oz. peeled and deveined raw shrimp (no tails)
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 3 Tb. olive oil (probably more)
- 1/2 cup of your favorite dry white or pink wine (we used a vin gris from the Santa Cruz mountains)
Timing: 30-45 minutes total (depending on your playlist)
As I said, the first thing you’ll want to do is pour yourself and your dining companion a large glass of something delightful. We started the evening with a vin gris from Bonny Doon Winery, a local winery that makes great wines with unique and delightful grapes. You’ll also need a half cup of dry white or pink wine for the recipe, so you may as well open up the bottle now.
(Quick Tip) When cooking with wine, there is no such thing as ‘cooking wine.’ Unless you are pouring the bottle down the drain or giving it to a disfavored neighbor, you are consuming it for taste. So go ahead and “cook” with whatever you are drinking or are willing to drink… within reason. If it does not taste good in a glass, it won’t taste much better on your food.
Next, get a big pasta pot, fill it with water, and put it on the stove turned up as high as it can go. Add a pinch of salt, and let it come to a boil (which I find always takes a really long time.)
While your water is boiling, you and your partner can divide up the rest of the tasks: the shrimp and the sauce. These two things can be done at the same time, or if only one of you is cooking, make the sauce first.
The easiest way to make the sauce is with a food processor. If you have one, get it out. If you don’t, use a blender. If you don’t have a blender, get out a big bowl and a whisk. The components of the sauce are simple: avocado, olive oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the avocado from the skin.
Put the avocado in your food processor:
Using a microplane grater, grate the zest of one lemon:
Then, cut the lemon in half…
and juice both sides directly into the food processor:
Add 2 Tb. of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper:
Your sauce is done! Stick a spoon in it, and give it a taste — if it needs more salt, add some. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil.
I like to work with raw, unfrozen, medium-sized prawns that have been shelled, de-veined, and had the tails removed. These are also the most expensive kinds of prawns, but we really don’t like preparing [deveining] shrimp. We start by putting the prawns in the sink in a colander and giving them a quick rinse. While the prawns are in the sink, place a large, heavy bottomed, saucepan on the stovetop, and turn the burner up to medium. Add 1Tb. of olive oil, the 1/2 cup wine, and diced onions. Sauté for approximately 7 minutes.
Once the onions have softened, add the prawns:
To add some heat, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top of the prawns. Below is my crazy wife’s version of “a little heat.” She is Italian and cannot be trusted with red pepper and pasta. That said, this dish can be spiced up safely, because the sauce otherwise makes it pretty tolerant to heat. You may also want to add more olive oil (you can never have too much olive oil).
The prawns will cook very fast, about two minutes per side. After the prawns cook, turn down the stove to simmer, so you don’t overcook the prawns.
The Quinoa Pasta
While you’re cooking the prawns, add the quinoa linguine to the boiling water. Cooking quinoa linguine is just like cooking regular pasta — the best thing to do is just to follow the directions on the box. It will look something like this:
Putting it all Together
Once you’ve cooked and drained the pasta, transfer it to the saucepan with the prawns:
Add the avocado-citrus sauce:
And mix it all up!
Plate in pretty pasta piles, and top with grated parmesan:
At this point, you’ll want to refresh your glasses of wine and sit down to a wonderful dinner with that person who you can’t wait to come home to on Friday night–whomever that person may be.* After dinner, slip into something comfortable, grab a cozy blanket, and enjoy the beginning of the weekend!
*We are fairly open minded in terms of romantic and relationship arrangements here at Hungry & Tired, but we tend to be traditionalists about the most important things. And you should only cook pasta with someone you love.