Love Informed Shrimp Barka

August 20, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer, and among the good books was Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World: A Memoir.


Alexander writes about the unexpected death of Ficre Ghebreyesus, husband, father, painter, and chef.  (One of his paintings is the cover of the book.)  This is a touching memoir about love, marriage, and widowhood.  She says, “The story seems to begin with catastrophe but in fact begins earlier and is not a tragedy but rather a love story.  Perhaps tragedies are only tragedies in the presence of love, which confers meaning to loss.  Loss is not felt in the absence of love.”

Shrimp Barka

Shrimp Barka

Ghebreyesus was a chef, and Alexander includes a few favorite recipes in the book.  The one for Shrimp Barka caught my eye, as it seemed a savory way to use up some of summer’s tomatoes and basil.  The dates in the stew gave a sweet undertone to this dish (I don’t know if that is an East African influence), and I found it quite tasty.

Tomatoes for Shrimp Barka

Tomatoes for Shrimp Barka

Fresh basil

Fresh basil

I used sweet onions rather than red onions because that is what I had on hand.

I used sweet onions rather than red onions because that is what I had on hand.

Chopped dates

Chopped dates

Shrimp Barka
from Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World

(serves 4)

4 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
5 very ripe and juicy tomatoes, chopped coarsely
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c finely chopped fresh basil
15 pitted dates, (1/2 c) cut crosswise in thirds
3 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c half-and-half
1 pound medium shrimp (16 – 20) shelled and deveined
2/3 c Parmesan cheese
2-1/2 c cooked basmati rice

Cooking Shrimp Barka

Cooking Shrimp Barka

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, and saute until wilted, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, and continue sauteing, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, for 2 minutes longer.  Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add basil, dates, and coconut and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes.  Add the half-and-half, cover, and cook for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp to sauce.  Cook, covered, until shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cheese, and then the rice and serve immediately.  (I served the shrimp stew over the rice rather than mix together.)







3 Responses to “Love Informed Shrimp Barka”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    This sounds just wonderful. I’m going to give it a try, sooner rather than later.

  2. Adrienne Says:

    seems like something I’d like. I’ll give it a try. thanks

  3. Anne Timlick Says:

    What a wonderful post! I share your enthusiasm for Elizabeth Alexander. Now I have to get Light of the World at KCLS.

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