Weeknight Shorts: Inspiration in a Bottle
Sometimes we turn to our kitchen to save us from the dead of winter. Whether it's looking for bold flavors to wake up our tastebuds or fresh ingredients to distract us from the frozen tundra outside our doors or a little bit of each of those things, making meals that take us away from a season that can leave us stuck inside more than we want and frozen to the bone when we do get outside help preserve sanity in the coldest, greyest part of the winter season. So when I grabbed a peppy sauce from my pantry, I knew it was the start of something beautiful:
A fairly unassuming bottle of Mango Ginger Habanero Sauce was tucked in my pantry and I found it at just the right time. The label was nothing special and the fairly nondescript pale yellow sauce within didn't hold anything like a life-changing promise. But I couldn't help but be intrigued by just the ingredients listed in bold: mango? ginger? habanero? How could that be anything but a promise to whisk me away to a tropical adventure? So then it was just a matter of making sure I paired it with fun ingredients to keep that happy mirage going as long as I could. Seafood makes me dream of coastal and island getaways, so shrimp it was. And pineapple has just enough sweetness and tanginess to be a great partner to tropical spicy shrimp. Then it was just a matter of making sure my noodle bowl — because you all know how much I adore noodle bowls — was filled with a rainbow of color and a bevy of textures. Some fresh ingredients (think bright green spinach and brilliant orange carrots) and some lightly sautéed ingredients (think slightly charred red onions and tender sweet red peppers) make this dish as gorgeous as it is delicious:
When assembling the noodle bowls, pasta hot from the cooking pot gets a whirl with more of the sauce. I was loving the sauce, so I had it on the table for drizzling if any bite seemed less than perfect. Then everything gets arranged beautifully and how to eat it is a challenge left to the diner. You can enjoy each section with exacting precision or grab a fork or chopsticks and swirl all that loveliness together and enjoy a new bite every time. Or you can start all organized and give into the mess about halfway through! However you choose to dig in, enjoy your little tropical dinner getaway!
- 8 oz. spaghetti or other long pasta (choose according to your tastes and dietary preferences - rice noodles are a great gluten free option)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 c. pineapple chunks
- 1/2 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
- 8-10 red sweet mini-peppers, stems removed and sliced in half
- 8 oz. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- About 1/2 c. Mango Ginger Habanero Sauce or another tropical-inspired sauce of your choice, divided
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
- 1 generous handful fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- 2 tsp. black sesame seeds
Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions. Do not drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized nonstick skillet. Sear the pineapple chunks in the skillet until lightly browned; remove to a bowl and set aside. Add the red onion and mini-peppers to the skillet. Sauté the vegetables until softened and lightly browned; remove to a bowl and set aside. Add the shrimp to the skillet and sauté until cooked through and lightly browned. Add about 2 tablespoons of the bottled sauce to the skillet and toss the shrimp to fully coat them. Turn off the skillet and set the shrimp aside.
To assemble the noodle bowls, using a pair of tongs, remove a serving of pasta from the hot cooking water and set it briefly in a small bowl. Add half of the remaining sauce to the bowl and turn the pasta with the tongs to fully coat it. Set it into a wide, shallow individual serving bowl. Arrange the cooked and raw vegetables, seared pineapple, and shrimp over the hot noodles. Sprinkle the top of the bowls with black sesame seeds. If desired, add more sauce at the table.
- Yields: 2 large servings
- Preparation Time: 20 minutes