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!