As I sat eating leftovers from last night’s feast for my late afternoon lunch today, my phone dinged twice with two new text messages, one from my mother and one from my father. Mums sent a photo of the back yard covered in fresh snow, and Pops sent a photo of the front of the house, Christmas lights sparkling in falling snow. Out my window here in Brooklyn now there are big white balls of wet slush falling that are looking more and more like real snow every second.
I had another one of my favorite kinds of Friday nights last night: my candle for the first week of advent glowed bright and there was good food, good friends, and good wine. I tried making a new kind of soup, carefully following a recipe for Golden Pear Soup from Mollie Katzan’s cookbook Still Life With Menu. The soup was festive and sweet with a hint of cinnamon and white wine, and somehow managed not to be too rich despite the milk and sweet potatoes. For the main course we had artichokes with large helpings of garlicky pasta with shrimp, cherry tomatoes, and baby arugula, which I adapted from this recipe from Gourmet. The pasta too, despite the large splash of heavy cream in the sauce, managed not to be too rich, and was warm and comforting yet bright and refreshing, accented with the green tang of fresh arugula. Since all week I felt like I was still recovering from my Thanksgiving week of eating, I had tried to create a menu that would not be too rich but that would satisfy the cold weather Friday night need for comforting food. Friday night’s meal met just these needs for healthy food and comforting flavors, and ended with a seemingly weightless dessert of honey panna cotta. We paired the panna cotta with a sparkling cold Freixenet cava, whose dry little bubbles carried the custard to soaring new heights.
Golden Pear Soup
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 cups water
1 3-inch stick cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large ripe pears (any kind but Bosc), peeled and cut into think slices
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/3 cup whole milk
A few dashes of ground white pepper
Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot with water, cinnamon stick, and salt and bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, sauté pears in butter for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, then add 1/4 cup wine, cover, and simmer about 10 minutes longer over medium heat. In a blender, purée the sweet potatoes in their cooking water together with the pears-au-jus until smooth.
Transfer to a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven.
Add the milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons of wine.
Sprinkle in the white pepper.
Heat very gently just before serving. (Don’t let it boil.)
Pasta with Shrimp, Cherry Tomatoes, and Arugula
1 pound shrimp (about 12), shelled and deveined
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes, or to taste
1 onion, chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)
about 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 loosely packed cup baby arugula, or more to taste
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed)
1 pound cooked pasta of choice (I used gluten free ziti)
Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.
Add the onion, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste to the skillet cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened.
Add the wine and boil until the wine is reduced by half, then add the water and stir in the tomato paste, allowing to boil until the liquid is reduced by half again.
Stir in the cream and simmer the sauce until it is thickened slightly, then stir in the cooked pasta and the shrimp, and simmer for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and stir in the arugula, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.