I have been hungry for lemons ever since I swiped one last month from under a lemon tree beside a gas station in Florida. I thought the fruit was a lime when I tossed it into the door pocket of our pickup for the trip home. It gradually ripened to a soft yellow and then a dark yellow. When I cut into it, the deep yellow interior and sweet taste told me it was a Meyer lemon. I ate it unadorned, right from the rind.
Meyer lemons are all the rage and in season right now but I prefer regular old puckery lemons for cooking. They have a more pronounced lemon flavor than Meyers, which are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.
I had a yen for lemon bars and lemon cake and lemon mousse last week but because I’m avoiding sugar, I channeled the urge into a savory dish. Tony and I dreamed it up together in the car and I jotted down the ingredients on an envelope in my purse — lemony fettuccine with chili-rubbed shrimp, crushed peanuts and cilantro. All I had to do was fill in the details when we got home.
I marinated fat shrimp in a rub of Szechuan chili oil and soy sauce, and started the pasta sauce while the pasta water heated. Tony crushed the peanuts, chopped the onions and minced the cilantro while I skewered and pan-grilled the shrimp, finished the sauce and boiled the pasta.
The dish tasted just as I imagined — the slippery, lemony pasta a counterpoint to the spicy, rich shrimp. It put me in such a good mood I didn’t even grouse when Tony dumped tons more chili oil on his pasta to spice it up. His boorish tastebuds, I decided, are not my problem.
LEMON FETTUCCINE WITH CHILI-RUBBED SHRIMP
For the shrimp:
1 lb. large raw shrimp
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp. Szechuan chili oil
8 6-inch wooden skewers
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
For the pasta:
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 quarter-size pieces of fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup seafood stock or broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 2 medium lemons
8 tbsp. cold butter, in small pieces
2 chopped scallions, green part only
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
For the shrimp:
Peel and place in a zipper-lock plastic bag with the sweet soy sauce and Szechuan chili oil. Close tightly and rub the shrimp with the marinade to cover completely. Refrigerate until needed. Soak skewers in water.
For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta and add about a tablespoon of salt. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the three tablespoons oil and when hot, add the ginger, pressing and turning to flavor the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the seafood broth, increase heat to high and simmer until reduced to about 2 cups. Add the lemon and lemon zest. Set aside.
Thread shrimp on skewers. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet or grill pan. Cook the shrimp just until done.
While the shrimp cooks, place pasta in the boiling, salted water. Cook until al dente. While the pasta cooks, place lemon-broth over medium heat and when warm, begin whisking in the butter, a small piece at a time. Continue until all butter has been used.
When pasta is done, drain and return to empty pot. Shake over low heat to remove remaining moisture. Pour sauce over pasta and gently toss. Transfer pasta to four dinner plates or shallow pasta bowls. Scatter chopped green onions over pasta. Place shrimp skewers on pasta. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.
What I cooked last week:
Colorado sloppers (open-faced hamburgers on bun halves, topped with Colorado green chili and melted cheese); Cuban pork roast slow-cooked with criollo mojo marinade and green olives, with black beans and rice; lemon fettuccine with chili-spiced shrimp; Cuban pork, olive and avocado sandwich; pan-grilled strip steaks, oven-roasted cubed potatoes, cauliflower and red bell pepper with olive oil and herbes de Provence.
What I ate in restaurants last week:
Hummus with pita bread and Mediterranean pizza at Continental Cuisine in Fairlawn; a cheeseburger from Wendy’s; a spicy California roll and mini shrimp tempura donburi (two battered, deep-fried shrimp in a bowl of rice with teriyaki sauce) at Tensuke Express next to Tensuke Market in Columbus; two eggs over easy and grits at Eli’s Kitchen in Medina.
We really liked the pho at Southern Gardens. The closing is sad. We also like the pho at Taste of Bangkok on East Exchange Street in the Akron U area. It looks like a hole in the wall from the outside but is actually nice inside. And it will save you the trip to Cleveland when you don’t feel like driving so far.
Carol B., my first pho was at Southern Gardens in Portage Lakes, too. Sorry to hear it didn’t make it. But fear not. Lemongrass in Munroe Falls is everything you would want from amazing Thai food to the best soup on the planet. Everything there is completely addictive and the service is really good there as well. I highly recommend it.
There is also Papaya Salad in Cuyahoga Falls. They do a very good job, too. Hope this helps.
Dear Jill and Mike:
Thanks for the recommendations. I guess we’ll have to make do with Thai “pho” until a Vietnamese restaurant opens in our area.
From Marty L.:
The next time you need to get mayo, pick up a jar of Duke’s mayonnaise. I tried it while visiting my daughter, Jen, in the South. It is so good that I pack some to bring home every time I visit. But now I found out that both Acme and Walmart are stocking it, so I will have a ready supply. Try it in your egg salad next time and you will notice the difference.
Y’all switched to Southern mayo? I’ve tried both Duke’s and Hellman’s (known as Best Foods Mayonnaise in some areas of the West) and have preferred Hellman’s for years. But now I can’t remember what Duke’s tastes like so I’ll try it again on your recommendation. Sometimes a senior moment is a good thing.