Tuesday, August 31, 2010

cilantro pesto pasta salad with sautéed shrimp

Mr. Bunny and I are going on an exercise stint.  Any good personal trainer will tell you that 1) to loose weight, exercise is only 30% of it and 2) do not eat within an hour of exercising to maximize the calorie burning.  Of course, after an hour or so of exercising, no one really wants to stand in front of a hot stove and cook.  So, I have been trying to come up with healthy recipes that can be prepared before hand and easily cooked (or eaten cold) after exercising. For tonight, I came up a cold cilantro pesto pasta and sauteed shrimp.  The pesto packs a lot taste without adding calories or too much sodium and the shrimp is a good source of low fat protein. 

Cilantro pesto is really easy to make a big batch of it, and keep it in a jar in your fridge and use it whenever.  

Cilantro pesto recipe:

5-10 cloves of garlic depending on how much you like garlic

3 bunches of cilantro

1/4 cup of olive oil (if you plan on putting the pesto in dishes that will go over heat, then I suggest using regular olive oil, but if you are not cooking with it, then use extra virgin)

salt to taste

In the food processor, first mince the garlic. Pulse the food processor a few time to get the garlic to about the size of half a grain of rice.  Then add the cilantro.  Keep mixing the garlic and cilantro until all the cilantro is minced as well.  This should take only a few minutes if you add all the cilantro at the same time.  Because there are no liquid in this mixture yet, the garlic and cilantro will stick to the side of the food processor.  So from time to time, open the lid and scrap the sides.  

Now we are ready to add the olive oil.  Don't dump it in all at the same time.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil through the opening on the top of the food processor. You may need a bit more than 1/4 of a cup or you may need less depending on how much cilantro you use.  

Then add the salt and continue to pulse the processor.  I normally add 1/2 a teaspoon at a time, mix, and then taste it.  The pesto should be a bit saltier than how you normally like your food because it will be added to pasta, which will dilute the taste a bit.

One thing to keep in mind is the consistency of the pesto.  It should be about the thickness of apple sauce.  You do not want the pesto to be too thing because it won't stick to the pasta, and you don't want it to be too thick because that means the cilantro/garlic mixture and the oil haven't mixed together.  In the end you should end up with something like this:

Please ignore the stain on my table

This will stay good in the fridge for about a week.  If the top starting to darken, it's time to toss it out.  If you've made a big batch, then I would suggest freezing it in an ice cube tray and pop them in a freezer bag.  Then you can just thaw out however much you need for your pasta.

So my pasta salad for tonight looks like this;

Yes, there is corn in this
Now, lets move onto the shrimp.

I've decided to sauteed the shrimp with lots of veggies.  There isn't really a recipe that goes with this. Mainly I just look in the fridge and decide that whatever veggies have been in there long enough and needs to be eaten.   For tonight, I used yellow squash, zucchini, and bell peppers.  Therefore, it's fine to use pretty much any veggies you want. This is kind of free form cooking.

Generally when I do sauteed, I fall back on my Chinese cooking style, meaning lots of garlic and onion.  However, the cilantro pasta already has a very strong taste, so I'm just going with plain salt and pepper for seasoning the veggies with some shredded fresh jalapeño to give it some heat.

Shrimp generally do not require too much time on the heat to cook, so we start the sauteed with the veggies.  Heat up (on medium heat) about a teaspoon of oil in the pan, or just enough to cover the bottom of it.  You'll know the oil and pan is hot enough when you flick a drop of water in the pan and it sizzles but not pop.  We don't want the pan to be too hot for this sauteed because we don't want to burn anything and the veggies I've chosen takes a bit to cook.

If you've ever watched some one cook at a Chinese restaurant, you'll notice that there is an order to putting things in the pan.  General rule of thumb is to put the "flavor" ingredients in first.  By this I mean all the things (aside from the spices) that are meant to enhance the flavor of the dish, e.g. garlic, ginger, green onion, hot peppers, etc. Next, the meat and the sauce goes in. Lastly, the veggies will go in.  This order is based on how fast each ingredient will take to cook.  For my shrimp sauteed, I'm changing up the order of this.  Because I'm not using garlic or onion, I'm putting in the shredded jalepenos in first.  It'll cook and sizzle and brown for a bit. Then I'm putting in the veggies before the shrimp because veggies are going to take a bit more time.
All the veggies are in and cooking
Another rule of thumb for cooking veggies.  They are normally cooked when the colors are becoming more vibrant and they're becoming limp.  For the greens, it'll cook brighter and be a bit limp but will flop when you hold it up.  So when the veggies are almost done, dump in the shrimp.  I season the  shrimp with a big of salt, black pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Stir it around a bit, and turn the heat down to medium low.  Make sure you keep an eye on this to make sure 1) the shrimp is not sticking to the bottom of the pan and 2) you don't over cook the shrimp.  Turn off the heat when the shrimp turns from a grayish color to the red color. 


So then we plate the pasta salad and the sauteed, and we get this. 

Dinner is served.

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