Black Pepper Shrimp

A few days ago, Susan found an interesting recipe for Black Pepper Shrimp in The New York Times. She gave it to me and said, “Bruce, I think you should make this.” And, I did. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious it was. I served it with Dirty Rice.

Quoting from The New York Times:

“This dish, adapted from Lucy Carvalho, the cookbook author Nik Sharma’s grandmother, owes its fragrance and fiery bite to a generous amount of crushed black peppercorns in a velvety gravy. Like many other Indian home cooks, Ms. Carvalho, who lived in the coastal city of Mumbai, took the Indo-Chinese dish black pepper chicken and substituted shrimp instead. Some versions of this dish call for curry leaves to be fried with the spices, or they might call for another protein in place of the shrimp, like tilapia, cod or catfish. Here, the peppercorns are infused in hot oil, then left to steep as the dish cooks. Fish sauce bolsters the savoriness, but can be left out. For an even stronger bump of heat, increase the amount of black pepper and toss in a sliced serrano. Serve it all over rice for a fast, satisfying dinner.”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black peppercorns
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks (Susan doesn’t like green peppers so I used spicy green olives.)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined raw medium shrimp (fresh or frozen) (I used cocktail shrimp which I added to wok during the final few minutes.)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Cooked white rice, for serving (I served with Dirty Rice.)

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add the black peppercorns and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and half the scallions, and sauté, scraping the bottom of the pot as necessary, until the onions turn translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the green and red bell peppers and sauté until they begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and sauté for 1 minute, then stir in 2 cups water, the soy sauce and fish sauce (if using). Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the shrimp just until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. (Keep an eye on them: The shrimp can turn rubbery quickly.) (See my note above in Ingredients.)
  3. Working quickly as the liquid cooks, mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl to form a slurry. Add this mixture to the saucepan as soon as the shrimp turns pink, and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add more soy sauce, to taste, if desired. Garnish with the cilantro and remaining scallions. Serve hot or warm with rice.

Italian Wedding Soup

With a twist. The sausage meatballs!

I read about it on the editor of Bon Appetit’s Instagram page.

It is uncomplicated and oh so delicious. Better the next day, too!

Quoting Bon Appetit:

“This recipe takes all the right shortcuts and none of the wrong ones. We doctor up sweet Italian sausage for the meatballs, opt for adding canned beans instead of boiling pasta in a separate pot, and still manage to make an uber-flavorful soup without having to call for boxed chicken stock. It’s one-pot, one-bowl magic.”

Ingredients

1lb. sweet Italian sausage

¾cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

8 garlic cloves, dividedKosher salt

1 medium head of fennel with fronds

2 medium onions

½tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup dry white wine

14-oz. piece Parmesan with rind

1 15-oz. can cannellini (white kidney) beans

1 small head of escarole

Directions

  1. Cut shallow slits in each sausage link, then remove sausage from casings; transfer sausage to a medium bowl. Add ½ cup panko, 2 Tbsp. oil, and 2 Tbsp. water. Peel and finely grate 1 garlic clove on a microplane into bowl. Season lightly with salt and mix with your hands until breadcrumbs are evenly distributed.

2. Portion meat into small meatballs about 1″ in diameter (oil your hands to help with rolling if mixture gets sticky) and transfer to a plate. (Note: I made marble-sized meatballs.)

3. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add meatballs, spacing evenly apart, and cook undisturbed until first side is dark brown, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn meatballs and cook until other side is also well browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer back to plate and set aside.

4. Remove pot from heat and prep the rest of the soup ingredients: First, remove fennel fronds from 1 head of fennel and save for garnishing the soup. Cut fennel head in half lengthwise. Cut a V-shaped notch in each half to remove the core. Place halves cut side down, then thinly slice crosswise.

5. Peel and trim 2 onions. Cut in half lengthwise and coarsely chop.

6. Smash 6 garlic cloves (keep remaining clove for the end) and peel.

7. Place Dutch oven back over medium heat and add fennel, onion, and smashed garlic; season with salt and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden brown and softened, 6–8 minutes.

8. Stir in ½ cup wine and scrape bottom to dissolve any remaining stuck-on browned bits.

9. Add 8 cups water (Note: I used homemade chicken stock.) ; season generously with salt. Slice down along Parmesan rind to remove and add to soup; set cheese aside.

10 .Bring to a simmer, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered until broth is golden and flavorful, 25–30 minutes. Season with more salt if needed.

11. Open 15-oz. can beans and pour into a strainer or small colander. Rinse beans and shake to remove excess water, then transfer to pot along with meatballs. Bring back to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until broth is slightly thickened from beans and meatballs are cooked and have released some of their flavor into the broth, 10–15 minutes.

12. While soup is simmering, separate leaves from 1 head of escarole and rinse to remove any dirt. Tear into small pieces, then stir into soup in batches to wilt. Remove soup from heat.

13. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium. Finely grate remaining 1 garlic clove into skillet. Add remaining ¼ cup panko. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until panko is golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

14. Prepare your other garnishes: Finely grate about ½ cup cheese from reserved hunk of Parmesan (you might not need it all). Finely chop fennel fronds.

15. Taste soup and season with salt if needed. Ladle soup into bowls and top with chopped fronds, grated cheese, and toasted panko.

Here I am about to add the escarole.

Sesame-Soy Shrimp, Ramen, and Bok Choy

Susan showed me the recipe in the morning. I went grocery shopping. I made this for dinner same day. YUM!

Ingredients

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

12 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used cocktail shrimp which I added during last few minutes of the stir fry.

3 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon minced ginger

3 garlic cloves, sliced

3 baby bok choy (1 pound), trimmed and sliced

½ red bell pepper, cut into bite-size strips

1 14.2 ounce package precooked Hokkien noodles

Crushed red pepper or Sriracha (I used crushed red pepper.)

1/3 cup unsalted peanuts (My addition.)

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1 In a small bowl whisk together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil.
  • Step 2 In a wok or extra-large skillet heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook 2 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Remove to a plate. (I added cocktail shrimp at end.)
  • Step 3 Add green onions, ginger, and garlic to wok. Cook and stir 30 seconds. Add bok choy and bell pepper; cook and stir 2 minutes.
  • Step 4 Add noodles, shrimp, and soy sauce mixture to wok. Using tongs, toss ingredients until noodles are coated in sauce and heated through. If desired, top with crushed red pepper or Sriracha. Serve immediately. Serves 4

Based on a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens.

OH RHUBARB!

I said to Santa Claus
(That's what we call our elderly neighbor who has a long white beard and is a avid gardener.)
"I would love to have a few stalks of your rhubarb."
He got up from his chair.
                                          He walked toward me.
                                                                               His hands in his overall pockets.
"I make rhubarb jam.
                                    "The old-fashioned way.
                                                                             "The way my mother and grandmother made it.
"I used Jell-o. That's right. Jell-o.
"I cut enough rhubarb to give me five cups
"Of one-quarter inch pieces.
"I cover it all in a large saucepan with water.
"And sugar. Three cups.
                                       "I let it sit overnight.
"I boil it and then simmer.
"For fifteen minutes.
"Then I stir in the dry Jell-o."
My dog is at my side.
He is a very good boy.
Santa says
"What are you going to make?
"A pie?"
Or rhubarb, strawberry, raspberry tarte.

Spirit Life

"A beautiful bouquet, Bruce," Susan said.
                                                                 "Some of the flowers are dying.
"I'm going to pick them off.
                                                                 "And you can photograph them."
And I did 
                              And we dumped them in the compost pile.
Beautiful there, too.
                              Other flowers and coffee filters
                                                                               (I hope the filters are recyclable!).
Later in the morning I tied up the clematis plants
And filled the hummingbird feeder.
                                                                               Now we wait.
Birdwatching is similar to gardening.
                                                          Patience. Patience.
"Bruce," Susan called to me.
                                             "When are you going 
"To start 
             "Pulling up the roots 
                                              "In your garden?"
Soon, I thought. It is
                                Back-breaking work.
Last week I rototilled the garden.
"Eyes to future," Susan said.
                                            "You make everything beautiful, Bruce.
"Could you do me a favor, please?
"I emptied the corks out of the vase
"Holding the petunias. 
                                   "They were dying.
"Could you set the corks aside?
                                                 "For me?"
And for ten, maybe twenty, minutes
                                                         I sat and stared at the garden
While Freddy eat his bone.
I saw the garden
                          As it soon will be.

Holy Mystery

I stood at the kitchen window.
I watched the sparrow.
The sparrow gathered our dog's fur.
Freddy's fur.
I wondered if the sparrow could fly
With the weight of the fur in its beak.
I watched the sparrow
Fly with the fur.
I watched the sparrow fly over the fence.
I lost sight of the sparrow.
In Sunday School we learned.
      "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
      Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care."
      And “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
      what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. 
      Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
      Look at the birds of the air;
      they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, 
      and yet your heavenly Father feeds them."
This is a Holy Mystery.
Last Spring a robin built a nest 
In a wreath on our front door.
I watched another robin
Build a nest in our Weeping Cherry Tree.
I watched a sparrow, too.