This is my friend Liz. As friends go, Liz is pretty amazing. She possesses a lot of the quintessential great friend qualities like being a patient listener, sympathetic and she never judges. However, what I love most about Liz is that she lives her life on the bright side–She is a constant force of gratefulness and happiness. I’ve actually never met any one like her until my husband and I bought our tiny beach cottage.
Initially, Liz was just the down-to-earth, nature-loving neighbor with the revolving door of friends and family. Her cottage was always lively with the most unexpected of outdoor activities. (Like the time I woke up to a tight rope strung between our trees.) However, Liz is the calm eye of the chaotic storm of activity that surrounds her. But it wasn’t until I had Scarlett and started spending my summer's living at the beach that I was able to really get to know Liz. As a mom of three grown kids, Liz has been through all of it. Her experienced and loving perspective has helped ground my most emotional and ridiculous mom moments. It's also helpful that, at the end of the day, Liz always has my favorite cocktail waiting for me on her deck.
The other wonderful thing about Liz is that she’s a fierce cook. A personal chef in her hometown of Vancouver, Liz has this crazy ability to, in the blink of an eye, whip together a meal that can feed an army of cottagers. (An average night is about 10 people.) There's never any sign of prep, no banging pots and certainly no stress–Just hearty, fresh, simple meals that satisfy weary and sun-soaked cottagers. In other words, her food is pure bliss.
I'm not really sure how I was able to get Liz to not only share this recipe but attend the photo shoot for it. With summer days in Canada as fleeting as a break in weekend gridlock, Liz rarely ventures from her summer retreat and certainly not to the hustle and heat of the city. In addition, Liz does not cook from recipes. It's all experience, routine and intuition, so nailing her down for a proper step-by-step that could be shared with SPC readers was a pretty tough task. As she walked me through the method for this dish, she shared all kinds of alternatives. "Tell them they can use any vegetables they like!" she yelled to me from the tiny studio kitchen. "If they don't like shrimp, they can just omit it." "Mention to them they don't have to use the artichokes either." As she ticked off instructions, a tea towel dangling from her shoulder (her cooking trademark), I felt pretty proud of myself for getting her into the studio. After all, this recipe is exactly the kind of dish we love at SPC–seasonal, easy and totally adaptable.
I guess this means I owe Liz a drink.
Shrimp and Vegetable Spaghetti
Serves 8 to 10
1 yellow zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps scooped and halved and then cut crosswise into sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into quarters
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
5 cloves garlic, chopped and divided
1 1b. thawed peeled deveined shrimp
1 tablespoon butter
1 box of spaghetti
2 large meaty tomatoes, sliced into chunks
1 container marinated artichoke hearts, plus a drizzle of its oil
1 cup feta cheese, plus some of its water
1 handful fresh chopped basil
Toss the zucchini, mushrooms and red pepper with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves of the garlic, oregano and rosemary to coat. Place vegetables on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turn vegetables once and cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to platter and allow to cool slightly so you can handle them to slice. (If you are unable to grill the vegetables, you can roast them in the oven at 400 degrees until they are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.) Slice the vegetables into bite size pieces.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add butter and two cloves of garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook until they are pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp and juices from the pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl.
Drizzle the rest of the olive oil into the pasta. Toss the vegetables as well as the shrimp and their buttery juices into the spaghetti. Add the tomato chunks, artichoke hearts and a drizzle of the oil the hearts were packed in. Stir in the feta cheese and a drizzle of the water it was packed in. Stir in the last clove of garlic and sprinkle the whole lot with chopped basil.
Serve with warm, crusty bread. And, if you can, it's best to eat this meal on a deck with the sun going down in the distance.