Monday, June 28, 2010

Peanut shrimp & stir-fry vegetables

[wipes sweat from forehead]  Whew!  That was one humid morning run.  My air conditioner has been working overtime this weekend and, what a coincidence -- I was, too!  In addition to working on Saturday (a very rare event), there were unemployment celebrations to be had, free Bon Journey concerts to attend, cookies to bake, and bridal shower crafts to be... well, crafted.  (Sorry, V, no clues here!)  All were lots of fun, but left me without much spare time to visit the grocery store.  And my calendar for this week is looking pleasantly full as well.  No complaining here, as all are good things.  But I'm going to have to channel my creative food energies, as it's shaping up to be a fridge/freezer/pantry cleaner-outer kind of week :)

I don't know about you, but I tend to forget about the contents of my freezer.  You know, the thing that people long ago would've given anything to use to keep food fresh and for longer periods of time?  Yeah, I'm apparently still learning the advantages of having one.  Since I try to shop for groceries every week, I tend to gravitate toward the fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt, etc. that are newly purchased.  It's only when the fridge is starting to look bare that I turn to the freezer and my cabinets and discover a wealth of eats: shrimp! veggies! rice!  (I actually FORGOT that I had rice.  Woops.  Shows you how often I eat that.)  Some other pantry staples and I could surely whip up a healthy little meal for myself and my gardener.

What resulted from some scrambling and unintentional rearranging of my cabinets was a quick and fresh take-out inspired meal that was so much better.  The sweet and tangy balance of the sauce with the crunch of the peanuts and steamed vegetables.  I completely forgot that I was eating a relatively balanced meal because it was just so darn enjoyable to look at.  That color!  The textures!  My only regret is that I didn't make more, so learn from my mistakes -- make much, much more.  Because while traditional take-out would've lasted a few days in your fridge because it lost its appeal after you stuffed yourself with flavorless fried rice and some random chicken the first night, this dish will disappear by lunchtime tomorrow.

A few notes: Substituting peppers and green beans or your favorite vegetable (Matt loves and suggested water chestnuts, but I was obviously out of them) is very simple.  Soy sauce can be used in place of "wooster" sauce, and white or rice wine vinegar for balsamic if you like.  Oh, and finally, a word about the shrimp: I hate when restaurants keep the tails on shrimp.  Yes, it's slightly prettier but I'd rather not pick off the tail with my fingers or leave a perfectly good piece of shrimp stuck in the tail only to be wasted.  But, if you're a tail fanatic, ignore my previous soapbox completely.

Peanut Shrimp & Vegetables
-serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

1/2 pound of frozen cooked shrimp (using 41/50 count, this was about 22) or fresh, if you prefer
1 cup broccoli
1 cup snow peas
1 cup green beans
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
2 Tablespoons salted peanuts

Thaw shrimp using the quick method -- fill a bowl with warm water and place frozen shrimp in for ten minutes.  (If using fresh, steam per your method.)  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, peanut butter, vinegar, brown sugar, and "wooster" sauce; set aside.  Check to make sure they are thawed and pat dry with a towel and remove tails.  Cook vegetables according to package instructions (salted boiling water, about 5 minutes, drain) and set aside.  Add shrimp and sesame seeds and toss to mix.  Season with pepper.

Plate shrimp and veggie mixture, sprinkle with peanuts, and drizzle sauce on top to finish.  Take obligatory pictures if you're nuts like this girl, and enjoy!

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