We Embrace Change and Coconut Curry Shrimp

shrimp dinner

Embracing Change: Coconut Curry Shrimp

More than 2 years have passed since lovely Sarah Palin asked ‘How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?’ Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk politics here. But we are going to talk change.

Sarah Palin Asks the Question

Very early in my career during a round of pretty significant layoffs through which I survived, I learned that: ‘Change is good. We embrace change.’ That’s what one of the higher-ups told us, the lil’ people, at the time. And, I repeated it a lot in my head – like orphans who learn to soothe themselves by rocking in their cribs – I managed the shock of watching 30% of the company being marched out the door and soothed myself by repeating ‘Change is good. We embrace change’ over and over and over again. I repeated it until I actually believed it. And it’s been a mantra ever since.

Now, I do admit that not all change is easy to swallow. The mass firing wasn’t fun for anyone, but it was good in the long run for the company – and, a great learning experience for my younger self.

Personal change (as opposed to personnel change) can be tough to handle as well. Last night, for example, my 70-something-year-old father asked to borrow my readers because he forgot his.

That’s right. I now have readers. Still sort of hyperventilating from that one. I do feel the need to announce here that my ‘readers’ are only 1X AND as per my eye guy, I have better than 20/20 vision – it’s just that my eyes have changed and I can’t see menus, in small print, in dark restaurants, whatever. Let’s not discuss this again.

But, most change, is really good. As a food person, in order to keep it interesting and have content on a very regular basis, I’ve had to embrace new foods and cook things that I would have never made before. I’ve had to change the way I think about a lot of things.

Two truths I used to hold:

1. Shrimp is not a meal

2. I hate coconut

But, change is good. And recently I made:

Coconut Curry Shrimp (serves 4)

1. In a large pot on the stove top, whisk together:

  • Coconut Milk Whole Foods

    13.5 oz NOT 14oz

    1 14 oz can of Coconut Milk – unsweetened. For whatever reason, Whole Foods sells its 365 brand of Coconut milk in 13.5oz cans. Could be a marketing ploy and I fell for it and bought 2 – which was OK because I also made coconut rice…and, the 365 brand is very well priced.

    The recipe I tweaked also called for fresh coconut…but I draw the line there as I can’t stand crunching down on flakes of real coconut. So I left it out.

  • The juice from one lime
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp of minced ginger – note, you can store ginger in your freezer for about one eon if you peel it first (use a spoon), wrap it in Saran and then put it in a ZipLoc freezer bag…frozen ginger is easier to grate as well – I used my Microplane grater
Ginger Root

Fresh Ginger Peeling Process

2. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over low heat

Curry into the Coconut Milk mixture

3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 7 – 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken and reduce a bit.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste – just a pinch of each will probably do ya

5. Add in 1lb of large, peeled and deveined shrimp. I know… I normally use frozen, but thought ‘Embrace Change!’ and bought a beautiful looking pound of fresh shrimp at Citarella.

coconut curry shrimp

Citarella Shrimp into the Curry!

6. Return to a simmer, then cover and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until the shrimps are fully cooked

Oh, they’re cooked now!

7. Toss in about 1/4 cup combo of freshly chopped parsley and freshly chopped basil

8. Serve over rice…I made coconut rice with orange peppers and peas – it was very pretty – much prettier than the picture above…Again, I left the flakes of fresh coconut out.

Like it? They LOVE it!

The coconut curry shrimp was really good. I liked it…A lot. And, so did these people.

Up is down. Black is white. Day is night. I eat coconut. Shrimp is a meal.

You know what, in my kitchen at least, there is hopey changey stuff that’s working just fine.

Change is good. We embrace change.

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Shrimp Crepes Starring My Darlin’ Lemon Thyme

Crepes with Lemony Shrimp, Peas, Corn

Oh my darlin’

Oh my darlin’

Oh my darlin’ lemon thyme

Walked the farmer’s market this past weekend and was lured by the fresh, bright aroma of the herb guy’s lemon thyme. You could smell it from six feet away. It’s absolutely amazing. So amazing that I built an entire meal around layering in lemon flavor. I’ve since learned that while lemon thyme is nothing like regular thyme – there are similarities. As per WHfoods.org: both contain an oil that has been shown to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures – specifically in the brain. Even though this information is based on tests with rats, I feel like I’m smarter for eating it.  I’m certainly remembering a lot of song lyrics lately…

1 large lemon thyme bunch,  $2

Better brain cells, priceless

Lemony Thyme at the Farmer's Market

Lured in by this Lemony Thyme

You can’t possibly use this entire bunch of thyme…so:

First use: pull the leaves of 5 or 6 stems and place in small bowl in kitchen to surround yourself with fresh and bright lemon aroma while cooking.

Second: pull the leaves off of all of the stems. Reserve one tbsp…put the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer for later use.

With the tbsp: use to layer lemony flavor into lemony shrimp crepes.

Lemony Shrimp Crepes (serves 4)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1. In a large skillet over med/high melt 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add 1 small or 1/2 a large chopped shallot and saute until fragrant (about 2 mins)

Saute the shallot

2. Stir in the juice of one lemon and saute for another minute or so

3. Add 20 – 24 shrimps – depending upon size you will want 2 – 4 shrimps per crepe and 2 crepes per person

4. Add the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of lemon thyme, salt and pepper and stir

Saute Shrimp with Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Shallots and Lemon Thyme

5. The shrimps will only take a couple of minutes per side to cook …so be quick here…Add 1/2 cup of dry rose wine. You can add a dry white wine…but since shrimps are pink when cooked, I thought a pink wine would be prettier. Plus the pinot grapes in a rose add a good deal of flavor.

6. Turn the heat up and allow some of the wine to evaporate.

7. Turn heat to low and stir in 1 – 1/2 cups of mornay sauce with peas and corn. (Mornay Sauce Recipe) Put the remaining mornay sauce in a sauce pan over low heat.

Shrimp Crepes in Mornay Sauce with Peas and Corn

Shrimp in Mornay Sauce with Peas and Corn

8. Set up your assembly station:

  • Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
  • Place 8 Crepes on a cutting board (Savory Crepe Recipe)
  •  Mornay sauce in sauce pan
  • Lemony shrimp mixture
Shrimp Crepes Assembly

Assembly Station

9. Assemble the crepes

  • Schmear a little of the mornay sauce on the crepe
  • layer on 2 – 3 shrimps
  • roll the crepes and place in the baking dish
  • Once all are rolled and in place, cover the crepes with a good amount of the remaining mornay sauce

Shrimp Crepe Assembly Combo – click to see PDF

10. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 mins until completely heated through and serve

Sometimes you base an outfit on the shoes you want to wear. Sometimes a meal is built around the lure of one amazing herb. Bright, fresh lemon thyme is my new favorite herb and my current kitchen obsession. In addition to its incredible aroma and flavor, I’m totally getting smarter. Oh my darlin’ lemon thyme.

Guerillas in the Midst of Shrimp Tacos

I’m a little bit of a homophone-ophobe. This is a real condition. Seriously. It describes a person who fears words that sound similar but have two entirely different meanings. Like it was so sweet of the hotel to give us this suite. And I loved the kind maid who made the bed. Just typing it makes me shutter.

In the ’70’s there were constant news reports about the Sandinista Guerillas in Nicaragua. In our house, once my father was home, we watched the news. Well, at least the news was on. I can’t say I really was watching it. It was more like background noise I had to endure until prime time programming (Dallas, Taxi, Different Strokes etc) was available. We had one TVone. So, everyone watched the same thing and the bigger people generally got to dictate what that one thing would be.

Anyway, the fighting in Nicaragua had been going on for years, but really heated up in 1979 after the formal unification of the Sandinista guerillas.

This was also around the time that you could find Planet of the Apes television series starring Roddy McDowall reruns on TV.

And, I was pretty young.

So, when the din of the news reported on the guerillas in Nicaragua, I was certain that they meant gorillas.

Yes, to answer the obvious question, the news rolled footage of the guerillas – but it was 1979 and the footage was grainy, not all high def like now. Even when I would watch the reports, I thought the soldiers could totally be gorillas – like the ones on Planet of the Apes.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned about guerillas and then even more time passed before I was able to admit to my mistake. I’ve had homophone-ophobia ever since.

Recently, I was taking my first stab at using tomatillos – which I was a little afraid of. See ‘Tomatillo’ sounds a lot like ‘Tomato’ (though not an exact homophone). But, just as guerillas are completely different than gorillas, – tomatillos not like tomatoes at all. If you’ve never used them and want to google ‘tomatillos’, you’ll be told that tomatillos are more like gooseberries. This information didn’t help to ease my fear as I’ve never used those either.

This is the recipe from FoodNetwork Kitchens that I used for reference and then tweaked. It’s for two pretty decent sized servings.

Shrimp Tacos with an Avocado/Tomatillo Salsa

Marinate 1/2 lb of large, cleaned and deveined raw shrimp in a mix of lemon and lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper for about an hour. I do use frozen ones and it’s fine. Just fine.

Put 1/2 of a small chopped onion, 1/2 a chopped and seeded jalapeno and 1/2 clove of garlic mashed in a food processor. I often sub shallot for garlic – but since the garlic is going to be processed, it won’t dominate the sauce. Finely chop.

Add in 2 peeled and rinsed chopped tomatillos, 1/2 an avocado chopped, 1/2 tsp of salt, the juice of 1/2 a lime and pulse the mixture until chopped but still chunky.

You can stir in a little bit of sour cream at this point. The sour cream is a nice juxtaposition to the spiciness of the jalapeno and garlic.

Transfer to a bowl and top with some fresh chopped cilantro. Set aside.

Pre-heat a grill pan to med/high. Spray with cooking spray.

Take the marinated shrimp and, if you want some spice,  toss with 1/2 tsp of chili powder and immediately place on the grill pan. The shrimp will cook quickly – about 2 minutes per side. I like a little char on my shrimp. Why? Because as per Anne Burrell: ‘brown food is good food’.

In a second pan, warm up 4 flour tortillas. Put a pan on medium and drop the tortillas in there for a minute or so per side. You just want them warmed, not toasted. You can use wheat or corn, but I really prefer flour.

Topped each warmed tortilla with a heathy schmear of the avocado/tomatillo salsa and 2-3, depending on size, shrimp. Garnish with some more cilantro (remembering that cilantro seems to be polarizing – you either love it or hate it) and a lime wedge.

The salsa makes this meal. And, helped me to overcome my fear of those tomato-sounding tomatillos.

You don’t hear a lot about the guerillas in Nicaragua anymore…or much about the original Planet of the Apes for that matter. Still, when I think back on my homophonic mistake, I know I can’t be the sole soul who made such an error. I mean, didn’t anyone think that Jane Goodall as played by Sigourney Weaver was In the Midst of Guerillas?

Fresh Shrimp

I spent a spring break in Mexico about 100 years ago. My friends and I had rented a small apartment on the beach. Nestled between two big high rise hotels in Mazatlan, our condo faced the ocean and provided us with incredible sunsets daily. The other perk to our beachfront location, was the proximity to the locals selling their wares on the beach each morning. Every day at 6:30am we would wake to a shrimper screaming up to us: ‘Fre-esh Shri-imp! Fre-esh Shri-imp!’.

I’ve never really liked cooking shrimp dishes as main courses. My rule of thumb was never serve food you can count. I’m not sure why, but I think I have a subconscious fear of starvation – I mean, there was always more than enough food in my life…but, food I can count makes me nervous.

That said, I’ve recently been playing around with lemon shrimp and pasta dishes. Here’s the latest recipe that I’ve liked….With only one pot and one pan being used, it’s also tiny kitchen friendly….

Summer Shrimp & Pasta

Put a large pot of water on high and toss in a palmful of salt. This will be for the pasta. I like to use angel hair…but any  pasta will work. That’s tri-color rigatoni in the photo – it was delicious and also really pretty.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 diced shallot and 2 cloves of garlic minced. Saute, stirring occasionally until fragrant (about 3-4 mins). Add 1lb cleaned, completely peeled shrimp. (Some people like to leave the tails on…not me).

Fresh shrimp can be pretty expensive, but I’ve found that frozen shrimp is just as yummy. Lately I’ve been buying my frozen shrimp at Gourmet Garage on West 66th St.

Add the zest of one lemon and the juice of 2 lemons. Saute until the shrimp is completely cooked – about 6 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the shrimp from the saute pan and place aside

Drop 1lb of pasta into the boiling water and cook just shy of the time on the box directions.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine – any dry white wine will do – to the saute pan. Stir with a wooden spoon –  the wine will help to lift all of flavor off of the bottom of the pan.

Add 1 package of frozen peas to the saute pan. Add salt and some pepper – to taste.

The peas will steam quickly in the lemon juice and white wine – about 2 minutes

Stir in 1/4 cup of cream and 4 pats of butter. This will help to thicken the sauce. You may want to add 1/4 cup or less of the pasta water to the sauce at this point if you think you may not have enough or just to thin out the sauce.

Remove the saute pan from the heat and re-add the cooked shrimp. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Pull the pasta through to distribute the shrimps and sauce.

Transfer to a serving bowl. At this point add some halved cherry tomatoes – it’s prettier with the red of the tomatoes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

It’s a quick and easy pasta dish perfect for a lovely ladies dinner. Perhaps I’ll invite my friends from the Mazatlan trip….just don’t tell them it’s not fresh shrimp!

Happy Pixies in My Kitchen

By far my favorite thing to cook when I was little was Ronnie Rooster’s Cinnamon Toast. I got this recipe from my very first cookbook: The Happy Pixies’ Cookbook. The recipe was exactly what one might think it would be, but I still followed the directions – carefully pre-heating the oven, placing white bread on a cookie sheet, smearing each slice with softened butter (this was pre-microwave, when butter had to be softened by leaving it out on the counter and then…waiting), sprinkling with brown sugar and then sprinkling again with cinnamon.

In just a few minutes under the broiler I had perfectly toasted, buttery, sugary delights!

I made the Ronnie Rooster Cinnamon Toast all the time and often tried different takes on it. If we didn’t have brown sugar, I found that regular sugar worked nicely as well. If you lightly toasted the bread without anything on it first and then added the butter and toppings, the heat of the toast would help to melt the butter and you didn’t have to wait for it to soften on the counter. I even got a little indulgent a few times and did a second layer of butter/brown sugar/cinnamon and re-toasted.

Sometimes getting a recipe right is like working your way through a maze where the dead-ends are just dishes that aren’t yet perfect. And, even though I had strayed from the original recipe, I always kept the book out while preparing the toast.

Everyone has her own comfort food – the one thing she craves when feeling down. For me, that was always Ronnie Rooster’s Cinnamon Toast.

There are things you need if you want to create in the kitchen and there are things that you just don’t really need anymore. I gave away almost all of my cookbooks last year as part of the downsizing of my life. If I need a recipe, I can find it online. Actually, I can find 1,000 variations in most cases. And, living in a small apartment, I love that the Internet doesn’t take up any physical space.

I know by heart how to make Ronnie Rooster’s Cinnamon Toast. And yet, when recently sorting through what to keep and what to give away, I decided to keep my tattered copy of The Happy Pixies’ Cookbook. I like knowing that there are always happy pixies in my kitchen.