One of the best things about British Columbia in the summertime is spot prawn season, which runs for about 80 days each year starting in late May. Not only do dishes showcasing spot prawns spring up on restaurant menus all over the city, there are even spot prawn festivals at both Fisherman's Wharf and Granville Island. Visit the moored fishing boats for the freshest selection of seafood.
When I purchased mine, they were extremely fresh (read: alive and kicking), which made prep a little challenging, though I'll spare you the gory details. But it was entirely worth the mildly traumatic experience because the fresh flavour was amazing; they were sweet and delicately "ocean-y". The meat is firm, and a little like lobster meat. Spot prawns are also rated "Best Choice" according to SeaChoice, which is a Canadian sustainable seafood program. So there you have it: sustainability and deliciousness. What's not to love?
One not so great thing about British Columbia is the lack of fantastic tomatoes. You know, the ones that actually taste like tomatoes? Sure, there may be some gorgeous heirloom varities in specialty markets, but I'm referring to the common pale-skinned, blah-flavoured supermarket tomato. Luckily, I've learned that roasting will amplify the flavour significantly. By lightly caramelizing them and removing much of their excess liquid, the tomato-iness is concentrated and makes a great pasta sauce. This way you can pretend you were cooking with fresh-from-the-fields, still-warm-from-the-sun produce. Nice.
The fantastic prawns and made over tomatoes came together in a dish inspired by a delicious pasta I had at Provence restaurant in Vancouver last year during spot prawn season:
Cappellini with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Spot Prawns
3 large roma tomatoes, quartered
1/2 onion, cut in 4 wedges
3 cloves garlic, whole
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
9 fresh spot prawns, cleaned
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb dried cappellini (angel hair) pasta
Arrange tomatoes (cut side up), onions, garlic, and thyme on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with oregano, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bake at 300F for 2 hours or until tomatoes are slightly dried and wrinkled, and onions are soft and caramelized.
Cool roasted vegetables for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain the puree through a sieve. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Boil cappellini until al dente (about 3 minutes!) and toss in roasted tomato sauce.
Saute prawns in butter and garlic (2 minutes per side). Serve over pasta with shaved parmesan cheese, if desired.
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