Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Linguini with Lemon Cream Sauce & Lemon Pepper Shrimp...Featuring California Lemons from Limoneira

One of my favorite cooking ingredients is lemon…there’s just something about lemons that works so well in a wide range of recipes! They bring a tart finish to mild seafood, a sunny brightness to veggies, and they cut through the sugary sweetness in all sorts of baked goods. Along with garlic, you’ll never find my kitchen without a couple of lemons waiting to be used! Limoneira, a California-based agribusiness, recently sent me a huge box of lemons in three varieties: California yellow lemons, Meyer lemons, and Variegated Pink lemons – striped on the outside and pretty pink flesh on the the inside! They sent the lemons in conjunction with their new Unleash the Power of Lemons campaign. 

The goal of the campaign is to show how lemons can be used in a variety of ways: forhealth, beauty, cleaning, and food and drink. According to Limoneira's COO Alex Teague, “Lemons are one of the most versatile items in the produce department.” I have to agree! When I cook with lemons, I always put the rinds in the disposal afterward to freshen and clean the inside. But…my favorite thing to do with lemons is use them to create fantastic food and drinks! A few weeks ago, I shared my recipe for delicious Sugar-Free Strawberry Meyer Lemonade using some of the Meyer lemons that I received. The lemonade was perfectly tart-sweet and very refreshing on a warm Texas evening. I also used some of the California yellow lemons to create a fantastic quick pasta dish for our dinner: Linguini with Lemon Cream Sauce & Lemon Pepper Shrimp. By using lemon in both the pasta and the shrimp, its sunny brightness was able to shine through in every bite.

To make this recipe weeknight-friendly, I used Buitoni refrigerated quick-cook pasta and easy-peel shrimp. The sauce came together while the water for the pasta came to a boil. Then, while the pasta cooked, I gave my seasoned shrimp a quick sear in a hot pan. This dish took about 45 minutes to make, start to finish…including the time it took to peel the shrimp. Although cream sauces can be very rich, I opted to use half and half. My sauce was rich and creamy, with less fat and calories than if I had used cream.

Linguini with Lemon Cream Sauce & Lemon Pepper Shrimp
Inspired by Martha Stewart Living

Step 1: Bring a pot of salted water to boil. While the water is boiling, make the sauce. Heat a large non-stick pan over med-high heat. Add 1 tbs. olive oil and 1 finely chopped shallot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the zest of one lemon and 1 cup half and half. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the juice of one lemon and stir. Reduce heat to med-low.

Step 2: When the water comes to a boil, add an 8-ounce package of refrigerated linguini. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until tender. While the pasta cooks, add 3-4 basil leaves cut in a chiffonade and 1 cup chopped baby tomatoes. I used sweet mini San Marzano tomatoes, which I love. Drain the cooked pasta and add to the cream sauce. Toss to combine the ingredients and turn off the stove.

 Step 3: While the pasta rests, quickly remove the shells from 1 lb. easy-peel jumbo shrimp (10-15 count). Rinse well and pat dry, then sprinkle liberally with lemon pepper seasoning and add 1tbs. Worcestershire sauce. Toss to combine and set aside while you prep the rest of the dish. [Note: I used Sugar and Salt Free Lemon & Cracked Pepper seasoning from Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Magic line.] Heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add shrimp in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt to taste and squeeze half a Limoneira yellow lemon over the shrimp as they cook. Sear shrimp on both sides for approximately 2 minutes, until cooked through. 

Step 4: To serve the pasta, use tongs to place some of the pasta on a warmed plate. Top each serving with some of the seared shrimp. Just before serving, sprinkle a bit of parmesan reggiano on top. Garlic bread and a simple tossed salad are the perfect accompaniments to this pasta dish.

This pasta was very good…the lemon flavor really shines through thanks to being prominently featured in both the pasta and the shrimp. The shrimp were quite spicy from the robust Cajun Magic Lemon & Cracked Pepper spice blend, but we thought the spice level paired perfectly with the cream sauce. We loved the hint of sweetness from the San Marzano tomatoes and the herbal freshness of the basil. We liked the texture that the half and half gave the cream sauce, but feel free to use heavy cream if you really want to indulge. We loved the lemons that Lemoneira sent so much that I’m going to be featuring them next month in a very special Lemon Week spotlight. If you love lemons as much as I do, you won’t want to miss this event!

Disclosure: Lemoneira sent me a box of assorted lemons to facilitate this recipe feature. Chef Paul Prudhomme Magic Seasonings also provided me with the seasoning used in this recipe. However, the opinions expressed are my own.

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