Prawn & Rockfish Pasta Verde

I know what you're thinking. When you read "Pasta Verde," you think, "Oh, jeez, not another chef talking about how great tomatillos are." And although I do like tomatillos, there are none in this recipe.

Like last week's asparagus soup, the verde sauce for this recipe was inspired by the bounty of vegetables in the produce crate delivered to our house. This time, cucumbers were abundant and the sun was (finally) peeking out, getting me in the mood for a crisply flavored, summertime type of dish. To see the weekly process of how I put together a dish over the course of the day, check out my facebook page. Every Wednesday is dedicated to a new special for Bennett's Pure Food Bistro or one the Pasta & Co.'s.

Now, I think cucumbers are shamefully underrated. Not only do people misattribute them to the vegetable family, they're often left only with the mild supporting roles of slices to dip in tzatziki or as a salad component. Even more so, when they are used, they're stripped of their most interesting and nutritional part - the skin. Usually peeled off, the skin of the cucumber holds the majority of the fiber, vitamin A and Vitamin C of this clean-flavored relative of the squash. If that weren't enough to encourage you to use a bit more of the skin, it also adds a tannic complexity to the flavor that is completely lost without it. 

If you'd like a great article
about cucumbers check out blog post.
Of course, the problem with leaving the skin on is that most cucumbers you find in the store (with the exception of English cucumbers) are coated in wax that is difficult to remove. I mean, sure, I like candles as much as the next guy, but they don't belong in my food. So to keep that tannic flavor element and all those good nutrients, I soak the cucumbers in almost hot water and then scrub the squash with a brush to remove all that unwanted wax.

Now that your cucumbers are wax-free and flavorfully liberated, let's head into this week's recipe.

Makes six entrees.

1 lb fresh vermicelli, capellini or 2/3 lb dried
2 cucumbers, soaked in hot water to remove wax,

               cut into 1-inch pieces
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp Old Bay
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 very large yellow onion
, chopped
1 ½ lb rockfish
1 ½ lb prawns
4 shallots, sliced and separated into rings
3-4 Tbsp. cornstarch for dusting shallots and rockfish
Salt & Pepper to taste for fish and shallots
Canola oil for sautéing and cooking shallots
1 bunch spinach leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Get the pasta ready to cook but hold off until you are ready to assemble the dish. Cook the pasta until al dente.
Combine cucumber and jalapenos with 1/3 cup olive oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Old Bay, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor and purée until it is the texture of thick salsa. Set aside.

Toss the onion in the remaining olive oil with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Spread the onions out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they are slightly soft and barely crisped at the corners, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Toss the shallots with 1 tablespoon cornstarch, salt and pepper and fry in canola oil until crispy and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined dish. Set aside.
Cut the rockfish into six four-ounce portions. Season with salt and pepper and dust lightly with cornstarch. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until shimmering (before it smokes), place the rockfish pieces in the pan and cook until golden brown. Turn the fish over and cook for one minute on the other side, remove from pan .
Season the prawns with the remaining 1 teaspoon of Old Bay. In the same pan used for the rockfish, cook the prawns on one side until the edges are pink, turn over and cook briefly until the very center is opaque. Remove from the pan.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.     
Using the same pan again, toss the pasta with the onions and cucumber sauce. Cook over high heat, add the spinach and toss to combine. Cook until the spinach has wilted.

To serve, portion the pasta mixture onto plates. Top with a portion of rockfish, a few prawns and a mound of fried shallots.

The result is a fresh tasting pasta that is light and healthy with that signature clean flavor of cucumber that pairs really well with blue sky and sunshine. Bennett's  (whose patio has been opened up a couple times already this season) will be serving this special through the weekend, until it runs out. So, stop by the restaurant to try it out (and fall in love with it) and then have the recipe at home for when you're craving it again!
Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week (or earlier on facebook or twitter)
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Lover of big ideas and bold flavors. Food should be like family and friends: honest, fun, and fulfilling.

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