I got back late last night from my annual trek down to Baltimore for Beth and Don’s (in)famous Memorial Day BBQ. It was, as always, great fun. And I served up some damn fine brisket, if I do say so myself.
But three days of hauling coolers, rubbing meat, and tending the coals will wear a girl–and her manicure–out.
I helped cook and serve everything from sweetbreads and pork belly to elk and musk ox. (I managed to stagger my grill shifts so as to steer clear of the whole raccoon.) Needless to say, meat is not so appealing to me at the moment. Luckily, a swing through my local sustainable seafood shop and the dregs in my refrigerator combined forces for a quick and lovely pescatarian meal.
Shrimp Tacos with Kale & Avocado Slaw
- 1/2 bunch Lacinato kale, shredded
- 4 scallions, minced
- 1 lime, juiced (plus another for your margarita)
- 1/2 avocado, diced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1/4 cup salsa
- 3 corn tortillas
- salt and pepper
Toss the kale and scallions with the lime juice and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. After a few minutes, mix in the avocado and 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Stir occasionally so that everything comes together while you continue on with you dinner preparations. Bring a small skillet up to medium-high heat and a cast iron skillet up to medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and the butter to the small skillet. Toss the shrimp with salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Make a margarita. Add the onion to the small skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until nicely browned. Scoot the onions to the side and add the shrimp. Cook for a couple of minutes, and then flip. Add the salsa and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced. Heat the tortillas in the cast iron skillet, about a minute per side. Assemble your tortillas, topping them with the shrimp, onions and a nice pile of slaw.
I am not particularly fond of hotels. I know that I am an oddball in this regard, but the anonymity, sameness and unabashed luxury that everyone seems to find so soothing make me nervous and a bit antsy. I would rather stay someplace with charm and quirkiness that feels lived in. And I would definitely prefer to have a kitchen.
I am in the middle of a five-day trip upstate to re-center between jobs. I chose Hudson because it is nestled within the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley while offering yoga, artisanal coffee and drinking establishments within an easy walk–a DIY spa experience for the burnt out urbanite. I’ve eaten a few meals out, but have mainly chosen to treat my day trips as scavenger hunts, returning each evening to pull something together from whatever I managed to find. It helps that the kitchen in my rental is dreamy.
The key to cooking while traveling is to keep it simple and bring a handful of essentials with you. For this trip, I brought small containers of regular and high-end olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, coffee, garlic and an all-purpose spice blend. I also brought two essentials that every rental seems to lack: a good knife and a proper pepper mill. The bourbon and tequila, while not essential, do add a certain something to the experience.
Yesterday I attended an afternoon yoga class and then took a hike to Bash Bish Falls (which lived up to their name when I succeeded in falling and bashing the hell out of my leg). When I got back to Hudson, I rewarded myself with a Negroni followed by what I think may have been the better part of a bottle of Vinho Verde at the wine bar down the hill from my temporary digs. It was a great opportunity to get a sense of the local scene and meet some lovely people–oddballs themselves, I was relieved to discover. Sometime well after sundown, my homing instinct kicked in, so I settled the check and stumbled up the hill. Luckily, I had half a pound of very large shell-on shrimp defrosting in the fridge and some fine Hudson Valley produce.
Zucchini, Corn & Tomatoes with Pan-Grilled Shrimp
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 large pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4″ pieces
- 2 ears sweet corn, cut from cob
- 8-12 large black cherry or other small heirloom tomatoes
- 1/2 pound peeled shrimp
- 1/4 cup of whatever (white or rose) wine you are drinking
- salt and pepper
- Put on some Al Green and pour yourself a glass of wine.
- Toss shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. When oil comes to temperature, add onion and sauté, stirring frequently. When onions begin to brown, add zucchini. Stir occasionally until zucchini is soft and browned in places. Add corn along with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in basil and tomatoes. Empty mixture onto plate.
- Return pan to heat and add shrimp along with any accumulate marinade. Cook for approximately two minutes, flip and cook for an additional two minutes. Pile shrimp on top of vegetables. Return pan to heat and add 1/4 cup of whatever you are drinking, scraping to remove any residue. Cook for one minute and then pour over shrimp.
This dish is a delicious celebration of summer–and so easy that even a rather tipsy vacationer can bang it out in about 20 minutes.
I recently had the opportunity to tape a television show discussing two things I am passionate about: home cooking and abortion access. The Park Slope Food Coop produces The Coop Cooks, a show that airs on Brooklyn Cable Access Television and is now available online. The host, Barbara Kass, invited me on to talk about the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF), a cause that is close to both of our hearts. In fact, Barbara and I first met at NYAAF’s annual bowl-a-thon. The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon is an amazing example of grassroots fundraising–and a whole lot of fun. Sometimes as little as $25 separates an individual from accessing abortion services. NYAAF and a network of funds across the country bridge this gap, ensuring that choice is a reality for everyone.
To see me talking shrimp, grits and abortion access, click on the image below.