Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Single Serving of Tuscan Shrimp with White Beans

"How are you still single?" He asks as we lay sideways on the bed staring up at the ceiling.

The question hovers above us as I consider how to answer, my mind flashing back to all the times I've answered it before. To the well-meaning friends who just can't believe a "cool girl like me" doesn't have a boyfriend. To the drunk uncle at a wedding who corners me by the bar, sloshing the contents of his glass of scotch on my strappy sandals. To the stranger at the bar who can't figure out "what's wrong with me" beyond my reluctance to go home with the first thing that buys me a drink (him).

I find myself shrugging my shoulders (a challenging thing to do while lying down), and mumbling something about being "busy" and "picky." It comes out something like, "I'm bicky."

He seems to understand.

I tug at a loose thread on my sundress as I listen to his reasons for being unattached.

He just moved here. He works a lot. It's hard to meet people in LA.

The cliches pile up next to us like a stack of neatly folded t-shirts at the Gap. They make sense. They are easy to say. They are easy to hear. They don't make either of us want to leap for the door and see what else is out there sipping a Habanero margarita by the pool.

It's a silly question and the answers we give are equally moronic and uninteresting. I know what I want to say, I know what's idling on my tongue like a motorcycle stopped at a light.

"I haven't met the right person yet."

It stays there on my tongue as we move on to talk about our favorite movies (he likes "Last of the Mohicans," I favor "Good Will Hunting"), tattoos (neither of us have one), and our morning rituals.

I don't know why I can't say it. I don't know why I can tell him that I like to eat quinoa with strawberries for breakfast and that I go to church on Sundays and that I actually like top 40 music and not in an ironic way, and not let myself be the other kind of vulnerable. The vulnerable that admits that I haven't found the right person, giving air to the underlying clause that accompanies it. That I'm secretly hoping he might be right -- if even just for four dates before we go our separate ways into the Los Angeles ether.

And so it goes unsaid. Left for the next time I'm accosted at a wedding by a drunken uncle, hounded at a bar by Cro-Magnon man, or pitied by the guy at the Whole Foods seafood counter when I request only four wild shell-on shrimp to make this dish.

Tuscan Shrimp with White Beans
Adapted from Michael Chiarello via Food Network
Serves 1

Notes: The beautiful thing about this dish is that it can be easily adapted to make however many servings are necessary - even a single serving for the gal who can't commit to making more than enough for one meal. I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, adding kale, using dried beans rather than canned, and changing up the procedure and quantities to my personal tastes. The integrity of the flavors, however, remains intact - a beautiful marriage of earthy beans with sweet summer tomatoes sharpened by the salinity of the shrimp.

Feel free to improvise as you see fit - with sausage instead of the shrimp, or topped off with a poached egg for a vegetarian entree. I do have to insist on the use of dried beans, fresh basil and in-season tomatoes. Because it is a simple dish, the quality of the ingredients are key in making it shine.

1/4 cup dried Great Northern white beans
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/4 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 vine-ripened tomato
1 cup chopped kale
4 wild, shell-on shrimp
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt, freshly ground pepper
Red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Soak white beans in two cups of water and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to even 24 hours (change the water if you plan on soaking that long!). Soaking the beans will not only reduce the cooking time, but also allow for more even cooking and some say noticeably less stomach discomfort after consuming. Drain the beans and rinse well.

Bring two cups of water to a boil in a small pot, add the beans, then cover and simmer until the beans are just starting to soften. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, then continue cooking until tender.  Drain any leftover liquid and set aside. (Note: Cooking time will vary depending on how long you soak the beans -- it took around an hour and a half for mine to cook after soaking them for 8 hours.) 

Heat a frying pan (I used my cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes over medium heat until lightly browned and tender. Add the chopped tomato, half the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Simmer together for 5 minutes, then add the white beans, kale and half the basil, and continue simmering over low heat while you prepare the shrimp.

Clean and de-shell and de-vein the shrimp. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Add the shrimp, remaining garlic, lemon zest, salt to taste, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

Heap the bean mixture in the center of a rounded plate/bowl, then place the shrimp around the edges. Garnish with the remaining basil.


Veena and Christian said...

Love this post (and your last one)! I can never decide what I like best about your blog - your recipes (I'm a big fan of quinoa) or your gorgeous prose! (Been lurking for a while :)

Diana said...

Veena - Thank you so much for the kind words! It's nice to know someone out there isn't sick of all the quinoa and my random musings! ;) So glad you came out from lurking to say hello! :D

Veena and Christian said...

Definitely not sick of it! Yours is one of my favorite blogs. :) I forget how long I've been lurking for - well, I've commented before, but under a pseudonym (when you were having problems with your computer CD drive, I commented with ideas but under a pseudonym, wasn't ready to put my name out on the web). But I thought it was about time I properly introduced myself. :)

Veena and Christian said...

PS - I also wanted to say - I was single for a long time and am now happily married, and I have to say, holding out for the right person is *definitely* worth it. :)

catty said...

Oh i've missed you! It's been too long since I've visited your blog. Bad me. And to know you are still eating quinoa with strawberries for breakfast makes me happy :) Hope all is well in LA. Why are you still single? Oh wait, was I not meant to ask that?? :)

Esi said...

DTAB, I love that you buy four shrimp. I usually just tell the guy at Whole Foods to give me a quarter pound.

yutjangsah said...

When I was a singleton, Id order the large pizza & the family sized meals for myself but I see how you do. Okay. Alrighty. Hmmm. Anyhoos you're a hot tamale & I can't wait til you meet whats-his-face that says 'just as you are'. Colin Firth aka my husband err 2nd husband once removed. Im the drink uncle, aren't I? Beautiful imagery tho - motorcycle idling. Is that my stomach growling tht inspired that? Keep on blogging. I'll keep eating the family meals by myself.

Diana said...

Veena - I remember that! Was so sweet of you to post your advice! Would you believe that I *still* haven't fixed my CD drive? I've been using an old school iPod shuffle, but it does the trick! I'm not so fussy... unless it comes to my future husband. ;)

Catty - You are so sweet! Yes, I'm still eating an absurd amount of quinoa... sometimes for breakfast, lunch AND dinner! Perhaps that's why I'm still single? I'm the crazy quinoa lady? The new version of the crazy cat lady.

Esi - Hahaha yeah that would have been easier I s'pose since it did measure out to a quarter pound! But I wanted four for decorative purposes too!

Sook - Can he say "you complete me" too? And climb my nonexistent fire escape and ask me what happens after the knight rescues the princess? Yep, I rescue him toooo. With my bucket of quinoa and beans. ;)