• 11Feb

    It was nasty out yesterday. I’d been up early and so had snuck out for breakfast and coffee before the rain started, but by early afternoon I was fairly well entrenched on my couch, alternately watching crappy TV and trying to care about a not-great book I’m probably not going to bother finishing. As dinnertime approached, I considered venturing out and finding some suitable ‘Saturday night’ activities (like not sitting on my couch), but a glance out my window at the cold rain made items I’d claimed to be “Interested” in on my events calendar decidedly less compelling than staying warm by my fireplace.

    As yet another rerun of the cooking show I won’t admit publicly to watching claimed its latest celebrity victims, my mind wandered to dinner. What would I make? I clearly wasn’t leaving the house then, but I am leaving town in a few days, and the ‘fresh ingredients’ section of my pantry is of course a bit sparse, and what’s there needs to get used up. I pondered the most vulnerable assets: a bag of lovely, bright green okra; an only-just still OK lime; slightly more than a quarter of an onion; half of a stalk of lemongrass; the last few cloves of garlic. How do they fit? In the freezer: the last of a bag of shrimp.

    As my mind meandered to Thailand, my eye grabbed a jar of extra hot Calabrese pepperoncino peppers. “Ithailian?” Sure, what the hell.

    As the shrimp thawed (and I began warming myself with a nip of DC’s own Chacho Aguardiente), I sliced the onion and got it started caramelizing with a couple grinds of black pepper and shakes of dried basil. While that cooked, I assembled the mini-blender, and puréed:

    • 4 cloves of garlic
    • About 5 inches of lemongrass
    • About 2 tbs pepperoncino
    • 1 tbs cumin seed
    • 2 tbs fish sauce (I use Squid brand, and top it up with a few drops of anchovy oil)
    • The juice of 1 lime
    • A couple shakes of dried cilantro

    Just as the onion started to brown (about eight minutes), I added about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, followed by the shrimp (six big ones), and stirred in my puréed sauce. Realizing at this point that it was going to cake like hell, I added about a quarter cup of (unseasoned) rice vinegar to loosen the sauce and integrate the elements. Cooking at this point only took a few minutes, as the vinegar cooked off.

    What about that okra, you ask? Super simple: I washed them (there were maybe 16) and tossed them with 2 very finely diced and smashed cloves of garlic, and steamed them over a small wok of water, into which I also muddled the garlic ends and peels. The result was a fragrant edge to the okra – I’m actually surprised this worked, but hey.

    I poured the shrimp and sauce over about half the okra (the rest is for lunch!), and it was really tasty. If I’d marinated the shrimp in the purée, it might have been even better, but for a 20-minute clean-your-cupboard dinner, I’m very happy.


    – MAW

  • 15May

    IMG_2701Guest blogger Maya reports great success with this family recipe – however, she warns that you *really* need to take your time with this, especially taking care to cook slowly and not let things burn. Indian cuisine, she reminds us, requires constant attention and no multi-tasking.

    This is why it’s her recipe, not mine.   😉

    The Shrimp:

    • 1 – 1.5 pounds large or extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined.

    The Marinade:

    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground peppercorns
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)

    To make the marinade, place all of the ingredients in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and refrigerate.

    The Sauce:

    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup canola oil (don’t use olive oil – flavor is too strong)
    • 24 curry leaves, roughly torn (optional)
    • 4 dried red chiles
    • 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns
    • A 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
    • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
    • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (OR 4 chopped salad tomatoes)
    • 1 teaspoon Sambhaar powder, or 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
    • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
    • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro


    Set 1/2 cup of water next to the stovetop. Heat the oil with the curry leaves (if using) and chiles in a medium pot over medium-high heat until the curry leaves start to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ground peppercorns and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the ginger, onion, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is browned, about 8 minutes, sprinkling with water and stirring whenever the onion and ginger begin to stick to the bottom of the pot.

    Add the garlic, coriander, and turmeric and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes to the pot. Cook, stirring and scraping the browned bits up from the sides and bottom of the pot, for 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. [if using fresh chopped tomatoes instead of canned, will take a bit longer than 5 minutes to cook it down. Use really high heat and stir often, adding 1/2 cup water if it gets too dry.]

    Stir in the Sambhaar and cook for 1 minute, and then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil and add the shrimp and any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer and cook until the shrimp are curled and opaque, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and enjoy!


    – MAW

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