Try this quick, light dish when it's just too hot to cook outdoors
What can a food lover do in summertime when it's too hot to go outside and grill? The answer is easy: Return to the stove with a recipe that's so quick, satisfying and light that you'll forget all about cooking outdoors.
The classic technique of sauteing is incomparably easy and so fast that you may sit down to your meal and blink your eyes in astonishment that something so delicious has almost magically appeared on your table.
As you may know, the word "saute" comes to us from the French word for "jump," and in the kitchen it refers to cooking relatively small pieces of food over high heat in a wide, shallow pan -- known as a saute pan, of course -- with curving sides that help the food stay in the pan as you briskly stir or toss them. Once the food has cooked through in minutes, you add some flavorful liquid and stir and scrape to deglaze the pan deposits, producing a delicious sauce that completes the dish.
For a perfect example of this technique, look no further than my recipe for shrimp with pink peppercorn sauce. The medium-sized shrimp called for here take only a few minutes to cook through once you've started tossing them in the saute pan; any longer, and they would go from tender and juicy to rubbery and dry.
Once the shrimp have been sauteed and set aside to keep warm, the sauce comes together almost as quickly. First you deglaze the pan with a splash of dry vermouth (plus some minced shallot for extra flavor); then reduce some fish stock and enrich it with a little butter.
To add an extra dimension of flavor, I also like to include a tablespoon of whole pink peppercorns (available in well-stocked markets, in gourmet food shops or online), which have a bright, sharp, slightly sweet flavor. Named because they're the same general size and shape as black and white peppercorns, though not related to them, these dried, rose-colored berries come from the Peruvian peppertree. (Since that tree is a member of the cashew family, anyone with tree nut allergies would be well advised to avoid the peppercorns. But you could add another sharp-tasting accent to the sauce such as a squeeze of lemon juice or some drained capers.)
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To complete this quick indoor dish -- which works well either as an appetizer or, in larger portions, as a light main course -- I like to serve it on a bed of baby spinach. And what's the easiest way to cook that spinach? You guessed it: sauteing!
SHRIMP WITH PINK PEPPERCORN SAUCE
Serves 4 to 6
24 medium-sized plump fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left attached if you like