Sidedish: Cilantro-Lime Rice

It always seems my downfall in menu planning is the side dish. I’ll take amazing efforts to develop a recipe for the entree, but pay little attention to the supporting cast members. This is really too bad, because it’s often the other items on the plate that make the main dish shine.

Cilantro Lime Rice

I feel like this issue comes from the fact that I like to keep my grocery bill small, and am lazy when it comes to preparation and clean-up. So, I love it when I can pull together a side that really elevates a meal, is cheap, and is super easy to clean-up.

This dish is adapted from Ree Drumond’s recipe for Garlic Cilantro Lime Rice. As I mentioned my laziness above, I removed the garlic from the recipe for super-easy prep, especially since I’m using instant rice from the microwave.

Easy Cilantro Lime Rice

2 cups of cooked white rice (I like the Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice – throw in the microwave for  90 seconds)
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (protip: zest BEFORE juicing)
Cilantro (I’ve found that fresh or dried both work – fresh delivering a lot more flavor)

  1. Cook rice according to directions.
  2. Combine all ingredients

I did say easy…

Credit photo to Ree Drummond

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Spaghetti Squash

Fra Diavolo is one of my favorite Italian sauces, and the spicy tomato sauce pairs really well with seafood. In fact, I really only see it served as either Seafood or Shrimp Fra Diavolo. The best part of this dish is that it’s super easy to make, and requires basic ingredients.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo over Spaghetti Squash

While pasta is the natural go-to medium for the sauce, I prefer spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is a winter squash and usually starts to show in the produce section in late October. To me, it looks a bit like a yellow rugby ball.

The name comes from the fact that the flesh can be pulled out in long “noodles” after cooking. After posting a picture of this meal to Facebook, there was a thread on the various methods of cooking, which really makes it easy to prepare. It can be boiled, roasted, and microwaved. I prefer roasting, as it bring out some more flavor from an other wise bland vegetable.

A 1-2 pound spaghetti squash will produce more than enough “pasta” for two adults, with some leftovers. I think it keeps in the fridge better than cooked pasta, as it doesn’t have the starches or gluten that creates the big ball of cold noodles the next morning. Plus, the slight crunch of the squash noodles adds some great texture to the dish.

Spaghetti Squash
Roasting Spaghetti Squash

As I mentioned, there are several ways to prepare the squash, but I prefer roasting. It’s super easy.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice the squash in-half, lengthwise.
  3. Using a large spoon, scrape out the seeds and core.
  4. Sprinkle the squash with salt & pepper.
  5. Place squash, cut-side down, on a cookie sheet.
  6. I like to then put enough water to come up about a half-inch on the squash.
  7. Bake in the oven 30-40 minutes.
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, then use a fork to scrape out the flesh

Fra Diavolo Sauce

You can either use un-cooked or pre-cooked shrimp. For convenience , I usually have frozen pre-cooked, shelled shrimp in the freezer. Allow them to partially thaw 10 minutes before cooking.

Also, feel free to experiment with the level of heat. I like to have my fra diavolo cause me to start sweating, so I’ll even add diced cherry peppers.

10-12 large shrimp (about a half pound)
1 can of petite diced or pureed tomatoes (I prefer diced)
1/2 a yellow onion – diced (optional)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. of capers with brine
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Fresh basil
Tablespoon of butter
1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

1. Heat a large skillet with enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
2. Mix the shrimp, red pepper flakes, garlic, and enough olive oil to coat, in a bowl. Add to the skillet.
3. Cook the shrimp 3-4 minutes until they start to turn pink (if un-cooked). Watch that the garlic doesn’t burn.
4. Remove shrimp from the pan and set-aside.
5. Add the garlic to the pan, allow to soften (3-4 minutes). Season with salt & pepper.
6. Add the tomatoes and oregano.
7. Allow the sauce to simmer for 5-8 minutes. It should start to thicken.
8. Add the shrimp and any juices back to the skillet. Allow to simmer and complete cooking the shrimp.
9. Just prior to removing from heat, add in the butter (optional) and fresh basil.
10. Server over pasta or spaghetti squash.

Photo credit to Steamy Kitchen