harissa tacos

grilled harissa shrimp

When I made that big batch of harissa a couple of weeks ago, I gave some of it away but kept a small jar for myself, even though I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. We had already planned to make grilled shrimp tacos that week (back when we were still having an unseasonable spell of beautiful weather and could reasonably eat outside), and Jon had the brilliant idea of bathing them in harissa instead of our usual lemon-garlic butter after taking them off the grill. The primary flavors in the harissa are chile pepper, cumin and caraway, so it works perfectly in a Mexican food context.

shrimp and cactus tacos

We built the tacos on flour tortillas with the grilled spicy shrimp, guacamole, sour cream, and lots of nopalitos (pickled cactus strips). It was delicious and I probably ate too much sour cream.

shrimp salad


Blessed with an abundance of fresh dill from Blue Heron Farm and huge prawns from the local fish market, I finally gave in and made Ina Garten’s shrimp salad. I used the excuse that I was making it for a food photo contest, but I wasn’t all that happy with my photos of the finished dish. Nevertheless, we cheerfully ate it all (to hide the evidence, don’t you know).

shrimp salad

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last week's grilling

building the fire

Before our current spate of wet, blustery weather descended upon us, we had some really nice days. We made the most of them by grilling.

shrimp skewers

mint julep


One day we did shrimp. Jon did them his favorite way, grilled with a bit of sugar and tossed with warm lemon-garlic butter over the coals. We had some leftover asparagus from the previous day’s cooking class, so I warmed it up and stirred it into instant couscous, which made a perfect bed for the shrimp in its buttery sauce. Mint juleps accompanied this dinner. It felt like summer.

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setting fire to shrimp


I don’t know if we make this dish mainly because it’s tasty, or because it’s so much fun to set fire to a panful of shrimp. Probably both.

shrimp fra diavolo

Shrimp fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”) is a traditional dish, the main idea being a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp, saucing long skinny pasta. The version we make comes from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It adds an extra step or two to the typical recipe, but it’s well worth the effort. If you’ve never flambéed before, give it a try – it’s gratifyingly easy. Just make sure there’s nothing flammable right above your stove burners. You can skip the flambéing step, but the shrimp won’t have as deep and rich a flavor.


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south of the border risotto


I had assumed that we would be eating all kinds of leftovers for days after our end-of-summer party. We did have huevos rancheros for breakfast (with drunken pinto beans and cotija cheese), and chips and guacamole for lunch, but then I realized there wasn’t really much else left except for a large pile of poblano and jalapeño chiles that somehow never got used, plus some leftover grilled corn. I really didn’t want to go to the store again, so I needed to think of something for dinner based on what was on hand. In a fit of fusiony madness, I came up with a sort of Tex-Mex risotto.


I chopped two poblanos and sauteed them in salted butter (I should have added onions, which would have given even more sweetness and depth), then added Arborio rice, followed by a glassful of white wine. I brought a quart of garlic-scented chicken stock to a boil and began adding it to the rice.

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lemon, garlic, butter and grill smoke


The weather has been amazing (apart from the fun little storm that whipped through on Saturday), and the asparagus has been gorgeous. How many reasons do you need to fire up the grill? This was a fabulous dinner that Jon cooked up last week: an entire bunch of grilled asparagus, grilled shrimp bathed in a lemon and garlic butter sauce, and good local bread. It’s very fast to prepare, apart from getting the coals going, and really, really good.

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ouzo shrimp and bread salad


When I decided to make two new recipes for dinner out of a brand new Malouf & Malouf  cookbook, I figured there was a chance it might be a complete flop, but at least it would look pretty. Fortunately for me, it was pretty and tasty: shrimp with ouzo and garlic, and a salad of watercress, red onion, radish and fried strips of pita bread. It was good enough to make again; a little tweaking is in order for next time, of course.

fried pita strips

The most exciting part was cutting a pita bread into thin strips and frying it in olive oil and butter until golden and crispy. That was really, really fun. The resulting croutons were almost like buttery potato chips. Continue reading

yet another shrimp curry

shrimp curry

Surely we will run out of new shrimp curry recipes any time now. I mean, the shrimp section in our favorite curry cookbook isn’t that big. However, in the meantime, we’ve been keeping a bag of prawns in the freezer – few things make a better quick weeknight dinner – so we’re always up for a new recipe to try.

fenugreek leaves

This curry uses yet another of those ingredients that you pick up in a store, thinking you’ve been seeing references to it everywhere – then once you bring it home you can’t find a single mention of it. This is what happened to us with sumac, although we’re beginning to have a bit more luck on that front. In this case it was fenugreek leaves – we bought a box at a short-lived Indian grocery that ill-advisedly opened in the back of an outbuilding in Burlington, behind the Outlet Mall. Of course, they turned out to be chopped and dried, when our recipes call for fresh or frozen. Sigh. Continue reading

shrimp curry

shrimp curry

Back during the summer we had been steadily working our way through the stunning book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, but we’ve slacked off a bit of late. Everything from that book has tasted fabulous, but much of it, like a lot of Indian food in general, is very unphotogenic and so not very conducive to blogging.

This week we ended up needing to cook one more dinner at home than we had planned, so I went looking for a recipe that could be made from just what was in the freezer and pantry. This shrimp curry was just the ticket, since we had the last of a bag of frozen shrimp needing to be used, there was a bag of dried grated coconut in the cupboard, fresh cilantro left over from a Thai stirfry, and everything else is a standard pantry item for us. We scaled the recipe down to match the amount of shrimp we had. Continue reading

a good party, with good leftovers

party lights

We threw our End of Summer party this weekend, and boy did we luck out – after weeks of rain and ridiculously cold dreary weather, the clouds parted and we had a perfect, mild, sunny evening. Guests could sit in the sun and not be too hot, or in the shade on the patio and not be too cold. I made Indonesian yellow rice, sesame noodle salad, peanut sauce and chopped cucumber salad, and Jon grilled pork satay, Japanese eggpant and fresh corn. I’m fairly sure nobody starved to death.

shrimp and noodle salad

You never know what’s going to be left over from these parties. We ended up with a half gallon of my favorite IPA in the world, small quantities of rice and eggplant, and a large tub of sesame noodles. There was also a bag of thawed shrimp in the fridge which I had intended to put out at the party and, well, just decided not to. I got tired. But that meant we had some good lunch fixings today – I poached the shrimp in salted water and mixed them into the noodle salad with a good squirt of Sriracha sauce, all of which was excellent washed down with a glass of IPA.

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