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.

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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.)

Enjoy!

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Cherry tomatoes from my garden

Cherry tomatoes from my garden

Roasted cherry tomatoes

Roasted cherry tomatoes

How to Live
by Charles Harper Webb

“I don’t know how to live.”
–Sharon Olds

Eat lots of steak and salmon and Thai curry and mu shu
pork and fresh green beans and baked potatoes
and fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream.
Kick-box three days a week. Stay strong and lean.
Go fly-fishing every chance you get, with friends

who’ll teach you secrets of the stream. Play guitar
in a rock band. Read Dostoyevsky, Whitman, Kafka,
Shakespeare, Twain. Collect Uncle Scrooge comics.
See Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, and everything Monty Python made.
Love freely. Treat ex-partners as kindly

as you can. Wish them as well as you’re able.
Snorkel with moray eels and yellow tangs. Watch
spinner dolphins earn their name as your panga slam-
bams over glittering seas. Try not to lie; it sours
the soul. But being a patsy sours it too. If you cause

a car wreck, and aren’t hurt, but someone is, apologize
silently. Learn from your mistake. Walk gratefully
away. Let your insurance handle it. Never drive drunk.
Don’t be a drunk, or any kind of “aholic.” It’s bad
English, and bad news. Don’t berate yourself. If you lose

a game or prize you’ve earned, remember the winners
history forgets. Remember them if you do win. Enjoy
success. Have kids if you want and can afford them,
but don’t make them your reason-to-be. Spare them that
misery. Take them to the beach. Mail order sea

monkeys once in your life. Give someone the full-on
ass-kicking he (or she) has earned. Keep a box turtle
in good heath for twenty years. If you get sick, don’t thrive
on suffering. There’s nothing noble about pain. Die
if you need to, the best way you can. (You define best.)

Go to church if it helps you. Grow tomatoes to put store-
bought
in perspective. Listen to Elvis and Bach. Unless
you’re tone deaf, own Perlman’s “Meditation from Thais.”
Don’t look for hidden meanings in a cardinal’s song.
Don’t think TV characters talk to you; that’s crazy.

Don’t be too sane. Work hard. Loaf easily. Have good
friends, and be good to them. Be immoderate
in moderation. Spend little time anesthetized. Dive
the Great Barrier Reef. Don’t touch the coral. Watch
for sea snakes. Smile for the camera. Don’t say “Cheese.”

For the first time in decades I planted some cherry tomato plants, and we are reaping the benefits now.  Every day I pick a handful to snack on or add to salads and hot dishes.  When we can’t keep up with eating them fresh, I roast a small batch and then process the cooked tomatoes and garlic into sauce, which I freeze in half-cup amounts.  This winter those little homemade additions will heighten the flavor of my store-bought spaghetti sauces.

What do you do with your excess cherry tomatoes?

 

The Tomato Index

October 19, 2013

Tomatoes at the farmers market

Tomatoes at the farmers market

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“If I were to say that today’s tomatoes are an index of the decline of Western man I should be thought a crank, but nations do not, I think, ascend on such tomatoes.”
— Russell Hoban, Turtle Diary (written in 1975)

We have made some progress with the tomatoes from our local farmers markets, I think.

Watercolor sketch of tomatoes

Watercolor sketch of tomatoes

Bacon from the butcher shop in town

Bacon from the butcher shop in town

Tomaotes on my kitchen windowsill

Tomaotes on my kitchen windowsill

 

Ingredients for a BLT sandwich

Ingredients for a BLT sandwich

One of my favorite summertime meals -- BLTs

One of my favorite summertime meals — BLTs

Summertime means fresh tomatoes.  I miss the homegrown ones, but I find that the on-the-vine tomatoes at the supermarket are reasonable substitutes.  One of my favorite summertime meals is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

Song to Bacon
by Roy Blount, Jr.

Consumer groups have gone and taken
Some of the savor out of bacon.
Protein-per-penny in bacon, they say,
Equals needles-per-square-inch of hay.
Well, I know, after cooking all
That’s left to eat is mighty small
(You also get a lot of lossage
In life, romance, and country sausage),
And I will vote for making it cheaper,
Wider, longer, leaner, deeper,
But let’s not throw the baby, please,
Out with the (visual rhyme here) grease.
There’s nothing crumbles like bacon still,
And I don’t think there ever will
Be anything, what e’er you use
For meat, that chews like bacon chews.
And also:  I wish these groups would tell
Me whether they counted in the smell.
The smell of cooking’s worth $2.10 a pound —
And how ’bout the sound?

“Her own way was to make art out of the very things that absorbed her attention in her own life.”
— William Deresiewicz, A Jane Austen Education:  How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Matter

I am loving this book, A Jane Austen Education

I am fewer than 50 pages into William Deresiewicz’s book, A Jane Austen Education:  How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, and I am already ready to recommend this book!  I love what he says about the lessons in Emma acknowledging that it is the accumulation of “minute particulars” that comprise a life:

“To pay attention to ‘minute particulars’ is to notice your life as it passes.  But it is also, I realized, something more.  By talking over their little daily affairs — and not just talking them over, but talking them over and over, again and again . . . — the characters in Emma were doing nothing less than attaching themselves to life.  They were weaving the web of community, one strand of conversation at a time.  They were creating the world, in the process of talking about it.”

Here are a few of the “minute particulars” of my day so far:

The last of this season's raspberries, fresh picked

Tomatoes ripening on the kitchen windowsill

Coffee shop patron enjoying a warm autumn day at an outdoor table

 

A Tomato, an Adventure

September 17, 2009

Tomatoes on the counter

Tomatoes on the counter

Ripe tomato, ready to pick

Vine-ripened tomato

Ripe tomato, ready to pick

Ripe tomato, ready to pick

I came across this wonderful description of a tomato in Muriel Barbery’s Gourmet Rhapsody:

“And yet I had always been acquainted with the tomato, since the time of Aunt Marthe’s garden, since the summer when an ever more ardent sun kissed the timid little growths, since the moment my teeth tore into the flesh to splatter my tongue with the rich, warm and bountiful juice, whose essential generosity is masked by the chill of a refrigerator, or the affront of vinegar, or the false nobility of oil.  Sugar, water, fruit, pulp, liquid or solid?  The raw tomato, devoured in the garden when freshly picked, is a horn of abundance of simple sensations, a radiating rush in one’s mouth that brings with it every pleasure.  The resistance of the skin — slightly taut, just enough; the luscious yield of the tissues, their seed-filled liqueur oozing to the corners of one’s lips, and that one wipes away without any fear of staining one’s fingers; this plump little globe unleashing a flood of nature inside us:  a tomato, an adventure.”

Farmers’ Markets 2

August 30, 2009

Here are some more colorful pictures from a farmers’ market in the Wallingford neighborhood.

Peach vendor at the Wallingford Market

Peach vendor at the Wallingford Market

Multi-colored chard

Multi-colored chard

Vegetable stand at the Wallingford Farmers' Market

Vegetable stand at the Wallingford Farmers' Market

Vendor arranging tomatoes

Vendor arranging tomatoes