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Try this quick, light dish when it’s just too hot to cook outdoors

By Wolfgang Puck
Tribune Content Agency

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.)

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!


Serves 4 to 6

  • 24 medium-sized plump fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left attached if you like
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons dry white vermouth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) homemade fish stock (recipe follows) or good-quality store-bought fish stock
  • 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 pound (500 g) baby spinach leaves, thoroughly rinsed and dried, stems removed
  1. Season the shrimp lightly all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over high heat until very hot. Drizzle in the oil, add the shrimp, and saute, stirring them frequently and turning them over to make sure they cook on both sides, until uniformly pink and opaque white, about 4 minutes total. Remove them to a covered dish, and keep warm.
  3. Add the minced shallot to the pan, saute briefly just until fragrant, and then add the vermouth; quickly stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Immediately add the stock and pink peppercorns; boil, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduced by about a third, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Using a wire whisk, add 4 tablespoons of the butter a few pieces at a time, whisking until fully incorporated before adding each of the few pieces, to form a creamy sauce. Set aside, cover, and keep warm.
  5. In another saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook, watching carefully, just until it begins to turn light brown. Immediately add the spinach, reduce the heat to medium, sprinkle lightly with salt, and stir the spinach just until it has uniformly wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  6. To serve, divide the spinach among the centers of heated serving plates. Divide the shrimp among the plates, placing them neatly around and slightly overlapping the spinach. Drizzle the sauce and pink peppercorns over and around the shrimp. Serve immediately.


Makes about 1 quart (1 L)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds fish bones, cut or broken into pieces, from any saltwater fish except salmon
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 stalk celery, sliced, leaves reserved
  • 2 cups (500 mL) dry white wine
  • 1 sprig Italian parsley
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Water
  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the fish bones, carrot, onion, shallot and celery; saute, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the wine, and stir and scrape to deglaze the pan deposits. Add the reserved celery leaves, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients.
  3. Raise the heat slightly, and bring the liquid to a boil; then, reduce the heat to maintain a brisk simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place it above a heatproof bowl. When the stock is done simmering, remove it from the heat and pour it through the strainer. Use immediately, letting any unused stock to cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to four months.

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