Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marinated Shrimp and Pico de Gallo Soft Tacos

I don't get the opportunity to cook seafood at home very often because my wife doesn't eat it, but I did this dish at work the other day and it went over very well with the staff and clients.

Question: How do you know how many shrimp make up a pound when they come in all different sizes?

Answer: Shrimp of different sizes are separated into weight classes based on how many individual crustaceans it takes to make a pound. For example, in this recipe I used 21/30s; in a 1 pound bag I can expect 21 to 30 individual shrimp. Larger shrimp have more meat, but smaller shrimp tend to be a bit more flavorful. 

Regarding roasted peppers: Roasting peppers at home is actually very easy; set your oven to 500 degrees, wash the peppers, rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrap it in foil and toss it in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil package from the oven and unwrap the peppers into a mixing bowl. cover it with plastic wrap (or the foil you used to roast it) and let it steam for 5-10 minutes. When the peppers have cooled, unwrap the bowl and with a clean kitchen towel rub off the skin which will have blistered and separated from the meat of the peppers. Scrape out the seeds and stem, and you are left with a lovely roasted pepper!


1/4 lb. 21/30 tail off shrimp
3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium sized red onion, julienne (if you don't know what that means, "Wikipedia")
1 Pablano (Fresh Ancho or Pasilla) pepper, roasted, seeded, and julienne
3 red Roma tomatoes, cored and julienne
1/4 bunch of cilantro
2 cloves fresh garlic
3 Tbs lime juice
1 avocado, sliced
Small flour tortillas (I used whole wheat and corn blended tortillas)

Toss the julienned onions, peppers and tomatoes in a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper; set aside.
Mince the garlic and cilantro; combine in a bowl with the oil, lime juice and (thawed) shrimp. This mixture should be allowed to marinate at least 5 minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat; toss in the marinated shrimp and sear.
Add the julienned veggies to the pan and cook for another 2-5 minutes; the veggies should be warm, but not completely soft.
Remove the pan from the heat.

Warm the tortillas; this can be done either on a grill, in the oven, or by just putting the whole package in the microwave for 30 seconds (tortillas are basically water, flour and lard so they will soften and be more pliable when warm).
Place a warm tortilla on a plate and spoon a generous amount of the shrimp and pico mixture into the center.
Place a few slices of fresh avocado on top of the whole pile and unceremoniously shove the first one whole into your mouth (don't forget to salt the avocado).
Suddenly remember that you have company and finish plating the rest of the food.

Someday I'll have pictures, but until then just imagine the possibilities!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Learn to cook? Cook to learn.

This post isn't about recipes. It's about what it really means to live and love the kitchen.

Cooking is a language just as intricate as English, Russian, Spanish, or even mathematics, computer programming, or ballroom dancing. It has grammar and syntax; it uses formulas, if/then loops, and particular movements and rhythms that come together in individual styles. 

True cooks sing; they speak two or three different languages, and they secretly play an instrument. They dance; they compulsively count the steps when they walk up and down stairs and they make up little songs that follow the beat of their knife-strokes on the cutting board. 

They have scarred hands, and maybe a slight limp from favoring one leg or the other during the long hours standing over a prep table. They have sore joints in their wrists, and Popeye-like forearms from whisking thick sauces and tossing heavy steel saute pans.

Cooking itself isn't hard; you just have to figure it out. You won't get calculus unless you've studied algebra first, so start small; make an omelet. Now, omelets aren't exactly easy if you want to get technical, but most people can make them almost instinctively.

If you take the raw eggs for that omelet, place them in a bowl over a double boiler, whisk in a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of tarragon vinegar, some white pepper, and 3 tablespoons of boiling water; stir it until it thickens: you got yourself Hollandaise sauce.

Ok, so maybe there is a recipe in this post; I guess I just can't help it.