Cooking at the Cove: A burst of sunshine in the middle of winter

Shrimp with sweet potato, quinoa and jazzy pesto to brighten your menu.Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

This is a fantastic meal to prepare when you want something special to brighten your week. And don’t we always need that? It’s also a nice meal to make when you have someone to help with the prep. Whether you’re alone in the kitchen or have company, get this unusual combination of ingredients chopped and measured ahead of time and be ready to enjoy this extra-special, herbalicious meal that will make your taste buds sing.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

When making this unique pesto, it’s OK to add in the smaller, more tender cilantro stems. And if you would like, substitute butternut squash for the sweet potato. Sautéed chicken would also work well instead of shrimp.

I served this delectable combination in low-slung pasta bowls lined with spring greens and added more toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish.

Lemon Kerfuffle is an old-fashioned pudding cake dessert that is a family favorite and the perfect sunshiny ending to this flavorful meal. Just be careful – it’s addictive.

2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes2 tablespoons olive oil, divided1 pound (16-20 count) jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveinedSalt and pepper to taste

In a small pan, steam sweet potato cubes for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Pat shrimp dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add shrimp and sear until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside. Place sweet potatoes in pan with a little more oil added if necessary. Sauté and stir until sweet potatoes are beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp back into pan to reheat. Turn off the heat and add cilantro pesto a few tablespoons at a time until you have the desired amount. Stir gently to coat the shrimp and sweet potato. Serve over Roasted Quinoa, adding more pesto if needed and garnishing with toasted pumpkin seeds. Yield: 4 servings

Cilantro Pesto

2 cups fresh cilantro1/4 cup pumpkin seeds plus extra for garnish1/2 cup olive oil2 cloves garlic, crushed1 tablespoon fresh lime juice1/2 teaspoon sea saltPinch of red pepper flakes1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cooking at the Cove: A burst of sunshine in the middle of winter

Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet, stirring until browned. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixture is pureed. Yield: 1 1/2 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided2 tablespoons onion, finely diced1 cup quinoa, rinsed1 3/4 cups vegetable stock1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernelsSalt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and stir, then add 2 tablespoons water and cover to steam onion until it becomes translucent. Add quinoa and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and gently simmer until liquid is absorbed, for about 12 minutes. In a small skillet, heat remaining oil and sauté corn until slightly browned on the edges, about 8 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and add the corn. Season with salt and pepper. Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter, softened1 cup sugar1/8 teaspoon salt4 large eggs, at room temperature and separated3 tablespoons flour1/3 cup fresh lemon juice1 tablespoon grated lemon zest1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart round casserole. With an electric mixer, combine butter, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat in egg yolks. Stir in flour, lemon juice and zest. Add milk and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but still moist. Gently whisk the whites into the lemon batter, just blending until no large lumps of egg white remain. (The mixture will look strange and you’ll want to keep whisking to make it smooth, but don’t!)

Spoon batter into baking dish. Bake in a water bath* until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-50 minutes. Let stand for 10 more minutes in its “tub.” Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. Yield: 4-6 servings

* Use a pan large enough to accommodate your dish so it doesn’t touch the pan’s sides. Place a metal rack or folded towel on the bottom of the pan so the dish doesn’t touch the pan’s bottom. Put the baking dish in the pan then add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the dish.

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