May 14 – May 20, 2018
Monday: Caesar Salad / Flat Iron Steak in Wine Sauce / Sautéed mushrooms with basil
Tuesday: Asparagus and Feta Panzanella
Wednesday: Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Herbs
Thursday: Tuscan Bean and Kale Soup
Friday: Baked Salmon with Harissa Sauce
Saturday: Tim and Hila, Katie and Dave, and Julie at our house for a cookout:
Apps – Hilda – Goat Cheese Brie with crackers and red endive
Oysters on the Half Shell
Dessert, courtesy of Katie – a Harry and Meghan wedding cake
knock-off from Oakmont Bakery – so good that even Beez
Sunday: Adriatic Grilled Shrimp / Low Country Red Rice
After a week of rain, we have sun and the lush growth the rain helped to produce. It was ‘Peak Azalea,’ as you can see by scrolling through this post.
I just got in from a walk with Rusty the Wonder Dog. It’s early evening and the daylight-savings-sun is pouring golden light through the trees and across the lawns and shrubs of the neighborhood. It is high spring in Pittsburgh, and there are petals, seeds and pollen lying across the grass, the roads, and the bushes. A small troupe of cherry trees down the street has created its own pink carpet of petals. And beneath the bushes, just outside our door, lie dozens of the delicate fluted cups of the azalea blossom. In the gutters of the street petals, pollen, racemes and fingers of seeds and blossoms are rolled together into hanks of fertility, like the scurf of sea foam on a windy day at the seashore. And as you walk, tiny petals of wild cherry fall in a light drizzle from high above, while maple seeds helicopter down from a lesser height.
I will never grow used to the richness of spring in Pittsburgh. As I get older, it feels like a reward for the long winter. When I was a boy, we lived across a field from a small group of apple trees, and in early spring, we would climb those trees and drink in the perfume of the apple blossoms. We would also pick some of the unripe apples and spear them on small branches we had stripped and sharpened. It was amazing how fast you could propel an apple on those whip-like twigs at the heads of your friends on the other side of the field.
If it were simply a question of my own comfort, I would pick fall as the season I love best. But to see how the dogs and the birds and the trees and bushes, and the children come alive in spring is a great privilege for a geezer like me, It wins me over every year.
But what the heck, you may be asking, does this have to do with food? I will not honor that ill-tempered question with a reply. I will note, however, that this is a wonderful time of year – and if you don’t get outside and enjoy it you are foolish. And if, while you are outside, enjoying the weather, you do not grill shrimp the way that Lynn Rosetto Kasper says that they do along the Adriatic, you are doubly foolish.
ADRIATIC GRILLED SHRIMP
(adapted from Lynne Rosetto Kasper, The Italian Country Table)
This is an a-b-c simple and natural way to cook shrimp. Any fisherman living on the Adriatic, after the tomato had been discovered in the Americas, would have had the ingredients close to hand. It’s a great light meal for a sweet spring night. Don’t forget the large lemon. On the other side of Italy, on the Amalfi coast the lemons grow as large as grapefruits, which is what I thought they were the first time I saw them. I prefer to think of this dish as Tyrrhenian grilled shrimp.
Timing: 40 minutes (only 6 minutes or so of actual cooking)
If you have fresh shrimp, already peeled and deveined, the recipe will take 12
minutes total. And we will be jealous.
Ingredients: Serves 4 – 6
2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined but with tails on.
Note: by large I mean at least 16-20 per pound. If you can get your hands on jumbo shrimp (8-10 per pound), 1 ½ lbs. will do.
Further Note: I used to peel and devein my own shrimp and still do when I want the shells to make fish stock. But you will enjoy your evening more easily, if you buy the stuff already peeled and deveined.
2 Tablespoons salt to plump the shrimp, plus more for seasoning.
4 cups of ice water
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil, plumbed 10 minutes in hot water.
Note: We suggest using 20 – 30 fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved. They bring a brightness to the dish the sun-dried don’t.
Alternately, you might try sun-dried cherry tomatoes packed in oil and drained – They are not nearly as chewy as sun-dried whole tomatoes and work better with the tender shrimp.
3 large cloves of garlic – we don’t use any.
3 packed tablespoons of Italian parsley leaves
1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes – we like two good-sized pinches
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh black pepper
1 large lemon cut into wedges.
Thaw shrimp in large bowl under a stream of cold water (about 10 minutes)
Then put the two tablespoons of salt and a good amount of ice in the water and let sit for 20 minutes. This plumps up (firms) the shrimp, as LRK explains, and really improves the dish.
Chop the tomatoes and parsley and cut the lemon.
Chop garlic if using (or, we would suggest grating it over the tomatoes and parsley).
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. (You can cook this on the stove top in a grill pan – we often do that in winter.)
Drain and pat the shrimp dry, then combine with the tomatoes, parsley and garlic (if using) and the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat evenly.
Brush a grill pan (see picture below) with olive oil and set it over the grill fire to heat
Grill the shrimp, tomato and herb mixture – turning the shrimp once so that each side cooks for 2-3 minutes.
Turn onto a serving platter and serve hot or warm with lemon wedges. Diners should squeeze some lemon over the shrimp just before eating, then close their eyes and imagine you are on the Amalfi coast.
The Viburnum is pretty spectacular, too.