Pad Thai Sans Nuts

December 7, 2011

Sitting by the roadside on a summer’s day
Chatting with my messmates, passing time away
Lying in the shadows underneath the trees
Goodness, how delicious, eatin’ goober peas
Peas! Peas! Peas! Peas! Eatin’ goober peas! Goodness how delicious, eatin’ goober peas!
~P. Nutt (A.E. Blackmar)

Earthnuts, ground nuts, monkey nuts, pygmy nuts, pig nuts—peanuts are not nuts.

Despite the name, peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are a dehiscent legume in the family Fabaceae, related to peas, lentils, chickpeas and friends. They are composed of a curved single seed-bearing carpel that splits open along two seams.

Native to South America, peanuts were domesticated some 8,000 years ago when pre-Columbian cultures dined on and even depicted them in art. When Spanish conquistadors invaded Mesoamerica they found the Aztecs growing peanuts the locals called tlalcacahuatl.

In the early 16th century, Portuguese traders took peanuts from South America to Africa where they became highly revered and flourished as a staple crop. Around colonial times, slave traders reversed the course and shipped them along with wretchedly stowed human cargo to North America. In one central African language, Kikongo, the word for peanut is nguba which morphed into the vernacular “goober” peas.

From the better half of the scientific name, hypogaea derives from Greek for underground, combining hypo “under” + gaia Greek “earth.” An annual herbaceous plant growing some 1′-2′ tall, peanuts begin as an above ground orange-veined, yellow-petaled flower. The flower is produced near the base of a slender pedicel (peduncle, stalk) that curves downward.

After pollination, the flower withers and cells beneath the ovary begin to develop a peg that helps force the ovary into the ground. The curved pedicel elongates, bends down to kiss the moist earth, and then forces the ovary underground. The peg has a cap of cells that protects the delicate ovary as the pedicle thrusts into the fertile soil. Continued growth then plunges the ovary under further where a tiny embryonic plant with two tender, fleshy halves develop, and the mature fruit becomes a legume pod. What a resplendent, albeit a bit forcible, act. Oh baby, oh baby.

Once the subterranean, seed-bearing pod matures, functional roots and photosynthetic leaves emerge. The pod coat changes color from white to a reddish brown with wrinkled, veined shells that are constricted between pairs of usually two seeds per pod. The entire bush, including root growth, is removed from the soil and the pods are allowed to dry. After the peanuts have dried sufficiently, they are threshed, removing the pods from the rest of the bush. The beans are then roasted to become those dried, wrinkled, vein-cloaked, seed bearing carpels we know and love.

Today, thousands of peanut cultivars are grown, with the more common groups being Spanish, Virginia, and Valencia. A source of monounsaturated fats, peanuts feature an array of other nutrients including vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein, manganese, and even lifespan extending resveratrol. Not only do peanuts contain oleic acid, they are rich in antioxidants.

Centuries old, now ubiquitous Pad Thai (“fried Thai style”) was originally made with a noodle brought by Vietnamese traders to the ancient Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya. It became popularized in the 1930’s as part of a campaign of nationalist fervor and an effort to reduce rice consumption as the economy had become overly dependent on rice exports. The trendy dish has so many variants, particular as pertains to the progression of ingredients into the hot wok with timing being everything.

I might suggest you arrange the ingredients mise en place and not make too many servings at once until you find your dance steps.

PAD THAI

6 ozs rice stick noodles (banh pho)

3-4 T tamarind paste
1/4 C nước mắm Phú Quốc (fish sauce)
1/3 C honey
2 T rice vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes or Thai chile powder

3 T peanut oil
1/2 C chopped scallions, chopped
2-3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2-3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 C mung bean sprouts
1/2 lb small shrimp, peeled
4-6 ozs tofu, cut into 1/2″ strips

1/2 C roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 C fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
2 limes, quartered

Mix tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes or Thai chile powder and set aside, keeping warm.

Put noodles in a large bowl and add hot water to cover. By far, the trickiest part is the soaked noodles. They should be just tender yet still solid, not completely expanded and soft. When in doubt, undersoak.

Put one tablespoon peanut oil in a large wok over high heat and when oil shimmers, add the tofu and cook until crisp and lightly brown, moving constantly, about 1 minute. Remove the tofu from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

Keep wok hot, add the remainder of peanut oil, then scallions and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan, and once they begin to set, scramble until just barely done. Add cabbage, shrimp and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage just begins to wilt and shrimp begins to turn pink.

Add drained noodles to pan along with tamarind sauce and tofu. Toss everything together to coat with sauce and combine well. When noodles are softened and warmed through, serve in shallow soup bowls, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro and lime wedges.

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The torch of love is lit in the kitchen.
~French proverb

What’s in a name?

In 1803, envoys from the recently founded Nguyễn dynasty gathered in Beijing to establish diplomatic relations with their northern neighbor. The emperor had chosen the name Nam Việt for his ancient realm. The word Việt, a shortened form of Bách Việt (“hundreds of Viets”), was derived from the traditional name for the imperial domain and from those who populated what is now northern and central Vietnam. Nam (south) had been added to acknowledge expansion into lands further south.

The Chinese fervently objected to the proposed name because it conjured up memories of an identically named ancient state that had openly rebelled against China. So, it was resolved to call this culturally diverse land Việt Nam. Ironically, the words Việt Nam had appeared in several carvings and writings centuries earlier. Now, this long curve fingered nation carries the official moniker of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam (Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam).

The country was often called Annam until 1945, when Emperor Bảo Đại changed the official name back to Việt Nam. During French occupation, it was westerly referred to as Indochine française (Vietnamese: Đông Dương thuộc Pháp, oftened shortened to Đông Pháp).

Gỏi cuốn, often translated as “salad roll,” is a wickedly delicate Vietnamese finger food comprised of pork, shrimp, herbs, bún (rice vermicelli), and chums all serenely swaddled in Bánh tráng (rice paper). This is synergistic stuff chocked with textured, cool nuances and flavorful bursts. Tailor made for a midsummer evening.

GOI CUON (VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS)

1/2 lb. pork loin, ground or sliced very thinly
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lb. medium shrimp
3 stalks of lemon grass, just the thick ends, smashed and roughly chopped
Sea salt
1/4 C whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3-4 thyme sprigs
2 T coriander seeds
2 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise

1 pkg bún (rice vermicelli)

1 pkg bánh tráng (rice paper)

1 C cucumbers, peeled and petitely julienned
1 C carrots, peeled and petitely julienned
8-10 scallions, sliced thinly
Bean sprouts

1/2 head Napa cabbage or green lettuce leaves, thinly sliced
Mint leaves, cut into chiffonades
Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Sesame oil
Rice vinegar

Over medium high heat and in olive oil, saute, then dry and drain pork on paper towels. Meanwhile, prep, clean and dry all vegetables and herbs and place in bowls for assembly. Lightly dress the cabbage in equal parts of sesame oil and rice vinegar.

Place shrimp, lemongrass, sea salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, coriander seeds and shallots in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook until just cooked through, about 2 minutes, then drain immediately. Please take pains to not overcook as the shrimp will take a tough, rubbery turn for the worse. Once cooled, peel and then cut boiled shrimp in half, lengthwise.

Add the rice vermicelli to boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes and drain well. All ingredients must be allowed to cool to room temperature before assembly.

Creating the rolls is a one-at-a-time zen task. Dip a single sheet of rice paper into a large baking dish filled partially with lukewarm water. It will soften within seconds. Then lay flat on a work surface. (If the rice paper languishes in the water longer than a few seconds it will become overly soggy and unusable.) Keep the remaining sheets covered with a damp cloth to prevent curling. On one edge, arrange a nest of rice vermicelli, a spoonful of pork, a few shrimp, some cucumbers, carrots, scallions, bean sprouts, cabbage, mint, and cilantro. While laying out the fillings, remain cognizant of how the spring roll will look once complete. Gingerly roll up the now loaded rice paper, tucking in the sides as you go and press to seal so it is snug. Once both sides are folded inward over the filling, roll the spring roll upwards so that it becomes a somewhat uniform cylinder.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. During the process, arrange finished rolls on a plate and cover with a slightly damp cloth to keep moist as you construct the remaining rolls. Gỏi cuốn should be rolled up firmly, but not too tightly, or the they will split. They should be assembled to your liking, but not overstuffed. While the wrapping may seem difficult at first blush, once you grasp a technique it will go smoothly.

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled with dipping sauces or concoct one to your liking.

Nuoc Leo (Peanut Sauce)
1 T peanut oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t chili paste
2 T tomato paste

1/2 C chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 t sugar
2 T peanut butter
1/4 C hoisin sauce

1/4 C unsalted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 fresh red Thai chile pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and then add the garlic, chile paste, and tomato paste. Cook until the garlic is lightly golden but not browned, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth, sugar, peanut butter and hoisin sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Cool slightly to room temperature and serve in small bowls, garnished with peanuts, and sliced chile.

Red Curry Peanut Sauce
1/4 C roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2-3 t Thai red curry paste
8-10 T water
2 t peanut or vegetable oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 C finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand and set aside.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then thin with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.

Rice Vinegar & Soy Sauce
1 T rice vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t sesame seeds

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

Nuoc Cham
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 T rice vinegar

1/2 C nuoc mam (fish sauce), available at Asian markets
1/2 C fresh lime juice
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 C turbinado (raw) sugar

In a small bowl, soak the red pepper flakes in the rice wine vinegar for 15 minutes.
In a second bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, and sugar.
Whisk in 1 1/2 cups boiling water to the pepper & rice wine vinegar mixture.
Add the fish sauce mixture and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Pourboire: Not surprisingly, rice vermicelli is found in other notable asian cuisines, including chinese (米粉), malay (bihun), and thai (เส้นหมี่ sen mee).

The cruelest prison of all is the prison of the mind.
~Piri Thomas

Petit and piquant, piri piri (also known as bird’s eye or African red devil) is a cultivar of Capsicum frutescens, which is both a wild and domesticated chile pepper.

Piri piri rolls off the ever seductive Portuguese tongue which did not so gently settle into the lush, tropical lands of the República de Moçambique (Mozambique). Not unlike most European-African incursions, Portugal began to colonize these lands in the early 16th century. Mozambique’s natives and natural resources, particularly gold mines, sugar and copra plantations, endured serious exploitation. Indigenous peoples were subjected to harsh conditions, punitive laws, and restricted rights all the while “settlers” were lured to a land claimed to be flowing with milk and honey. Sadly, a familiar tune.

Independence from this colonial yoke was finally achieved in 1975, yet Mozambique was soon ravaged by civil war, economic woes and famine. Relative peace was reached, ending sixteen years of brutal strife and allowing the country to begin drifting toward some form of stability. Still, the civil war that devastated Mozambique’s economy and infrastructure left it one of the world’s poorest nations.

Ironically, Portugal’s PM, José Sócrates, has now requested a financial bailout for his own country, north and west of its former colony.

The country’s name was derived from Mossa Al Bique or Mussa Ben Mbiki who was a renowned, local Arab trader of yore. I must assume that had to be one in the same person.

Shrimp piri piri has been anointed as Mozambique’s “national dish.” But, what does that phrase connote in a world rife with regional and familial dishes, cross cultures, conquest, occupation and colonialism?

This piri piri swerves some from the basic, but is well worth the diversion.

SHRIMP PIRI PIRI

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 t black mustard seeds
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
6-8 red bird’s eye chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chopped

1 t cumin seeds, roasted and ground
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 t garam masala
1/2 t ground clove
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t sea salt
Pinch of raw sugar
1/2 C apple cider vinegar

1 lb shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, tails intact

Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Lime quarters

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-4 minutes longer.

Add the cumin, turmeric, garam masala, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and, when the mixture is cool enough, purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. If necessary, add more oil to achieve the desired consistency. Set aside and allow to cool. Then, pour over the shrimp and cover in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté, stirring and shaking the pan, until the shrimp are done, about 2-4 minutes. Serve promptly with cilantro and limes.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
~ Mark Twain

It is brutally hot here…again. At noon, the car’s thermometer registered a paltry 103 and tomorrow will be even warmer with a hefty dose of humidity. A scorcher. Seems a good time for a chilled cup of ceviche and a crisp glass of cold white. These heat spells are also a sad reminder of climate change. So, before we move on to blithe culinary noise, please allow me a brief harangue about our precious oceans.

Over recent decades, numerous studies have documented the deterioration of ocean systems and predicted not a gradual, but a potentially catastrophic, decline in significant fish species. Simply put, we are facing fish population collapses. The vanishing of sea life. As one scientist voiced, “our children will see a world without seafood if we don’t change things.” One of the culprits is global warming, now more accurately, yet euphemistically referred to as climate change.

Please be patient with my digressive diatribe, but this subject is as serious as psychotic depression or a newly discovered melanoma. To some, a food site is no place to discuss climate change. To me, it seems ever so apposite to deliberate here about global warming’s effects on oceans.

Climate change results from an increase in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and surfaces, especially a sustained increase causing significant variations in global climate conditions. Despite misconceptions, climate is not weather. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.

An overwhelming consensus of the scientific community has firmly concluded that climate change is a clear and present danger that, if left unchecked, will likely produce dire consequences for Mother Earth for this and generations to follow. Global warming poses extraordinary challenges—the kind that are difficult to put our heads around. Leading atmospheric experts have warned that a gradual heating of our climate is underway and will continue apace. This warming trend poses even greater risks to poorer regions that are far less able to cope with a changing climate…communities that largely rely upon fish for food or are already strained from water shortages.

The mechanisms of climate change follow some from the phenomenon known as the “greenhouse effect.” First proposed in 1824 by Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, a French mathematician and physicist, the greenhouse effect is a process by which the atmosphere warms the planet’s surface. Inside an artificial greenhouse filled with plants, the surrounding glass traps the sun’s energy, making it warm inside, even while outside it may be frigid. This modus operandi allows the plants to flourish. The same effect occurs every day on the earth when gases within the atmosphere act like that glass, trapping the sun’s heat. Solar radiation passes through the earth’s atmosphere, most of which is absorbed by the earth’s surface and some of which reflects off the surface back towards space.

The atmosphere is partly composed of several greenhouse gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) which regulate the planet’s climate by absorbing and trapping some of the sun’s outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse. Without this natural “greenhouse effect,” temperatures would be much lower; indeed, the earth’s average temperature is 60 F higher than it would be without the greenhouse effect.

Particularly in the recent past, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have been steadily and remarkably elevating. Notably, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations all have increased dramatically. These additional accumulations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing marked warming of land and water surfaces resulting in climatic changes across the world. A group of leading climate researchers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saw a greater than 90% likelihood that most warming over the last 50 years has occurred due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This study synthesized the life’s work of hundreds of climatologists from around the world, and called evidence for global warming “unequivocal.” High scientific agreement exists that global greenhouse gases will continue to grow over the next few decades through this century. This continued warming has and will transform how societies currently function, as coastal cities, water, agricultural and food supplies are threatened.

Projections of future warming suggest a global surface temperature increase of by 2100 of 3.2—7.2 F, with warming in certain regions of the United States expected to be even higher. Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.5-1.0°F since the late 19th century. Our last century’s final two decades were the hottest in 400 years and perhaps the warmest in several millennia. In a recent report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), scientists concluded that global warming is “undeniable.” Climate change indicators pointing to global warming included:

–Declining Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover
–Rising air temperatures over land and sea
–Increased ocean surface temperatures, sea levels, ocean heat, humidity and troposphere temperatures
–Reduced numbers of record low nighttime temperatures

According to the report, each of the past three decades has been hotter than the decade before. At one time the 80’s was the hottest decade on record, but in the 90’s temperatures increased every year and the pattern continued into 2000. The NOAA found that temperatures were the hottest between 2000 and 2009, and the first six months of 2010 were the warmest on record.

This warming has grave implications for the environment: increased sea levels and temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, more frequent floods and droughts, water shortages and more frequent heat extremes. Ecosystem disruption, human migration, species reduction and loss are givens.

A word to the less than wise…Mme. Palin and your fellow global warming deniers, who decry climate change as a hoax and are proudly bigoted non-believers (as if it were some evangelical sect), please read and heed the word of true scientists. You know, those erudite ones that gather global data from satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. But why listen to experts in the field? You do have your own self-annointed PhD in Palin political theater…aka a buffoon’s conspicuous bullshit. If only your absurd, cerebrally bankrupt face-tweets were benign. But, our children and children’s children cannot abide by your drearily predictable and unreasoned hubris, Sarah. Your prattle harms humanity. Refugnant.

SHRIMP CEVICHE

2 lbs. small (41-50 count/lb.) fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
3 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1/3 C fresh orange juice
1/2 T fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped
Zest from 2 fresh limes

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

1 avocado, peeled and diced
Sea salt
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Parboil the shrimp—In a heavy, deep pot, bring cold water to a vigorous boil. Scoop the shrimp in, allow to cook for a moment or two and then promptly dump into a colander to strain. Immediately plunge the seafood into a large bowl filled with ice water to cease the cooking process, and then spread them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Allow to cool completely.

In a medium large glass dish, toss the cooled shrimp, shallot, lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, oregano and zest together. Cover well and refrigerate for at least four hours. Mix well from time to time.

During the last hour of chilling before serving, add the chopped tomatoes and toss. Remove from refrigerator and pour into a large bowl. Then, just before serving, add in the avocado, toss and season to taste with sea salt. Serve in chilled glasses or cups/bowls, garnished with cilantro.

Pourboire: If you are confident that your shrimp are decidedly fresh, you can skip the parboiling step.

(Cooking) is a form of flattery….a mischievous, deceitful, mean and ignoble activity, which cheats us by shapes and colors, by smoothing and draping…
~Plato

The etymology of the word tacos—tortillas rolled around food—was derived from the Mexican Spanish, “light lunch,” or more literally, “plug, wadding.” Taco is a broadly applied generic term much like the English word “sandwich.”

The word has multiple meanings, from the culinary to some nether worlds. For instance, there are over 50 references to the term “taco” in the online slang lexicon Urban Dictionary, some of which are undeviatingly anatomical and may offend a few readers’ sensibilities. So they will not bear repetition, as what some find humorous or titillating others deem crude. Then again, who am I to be the arbiter of the definition of obscene? Even Justice Potter Stewart vainly struggled with the lewdness issue once and was left with the enigmatic: “(b)ut, I know it when I see it.” Now, that is one concrete translation which only leaves you to ponder when he saw it, where he saw it, or what he saw. Somehow brings to mind the image of an elderly, yet scholarly looking man with styleless glasses, a starched collar, dark tie and flowing black robes peering into a poor quality video in a tawdry booth. A neon OPEN 24 HOURS spasmodically blinks outside. “I’ll know it when I see it,” he murmurs into the night.

The mainstay of the Mexican diet was, and still is, the ever versatile tortilla which is the “bread of life” for tacos. Eaten as an entrée or one of the world’s most supreme street snacks, tacos come in seemingly endless varieties according to geography, local ingredients, and the kitchen itself…folded, rolled, soft, fried…tacos de cazuela (with stew fillings), tacos de la plancha (griddle cooked), tacos al carbón (charcoal grilled meats), tacos a vapor (steamed beef head meat), tacos de canasta (tacos in a basket), tacos dorados (crisply fried), tacos de harina (soft flour, burrito-like).

As with pizzas, pastas and paninis, please do not overburden your tortilla with a spate of insipid fillings. And as a warning to those who fear the wrath of the taco gods, avoid those crisp bent tacos brimming with bland ground beef, iceberg lettuce and cheddar cheese. You know who you are.

To warm tortillas, tightly wrap 6-8 in aluminum foil and place in an oven at 375 F for 8-10 minutes.

TACOS DE CAMARONES (SHRIMP TACOS)

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (16-20 count)
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T brandy
Sea salt
2 T fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
1 tomato, cored, seeded and diced
6 radishes, trimmed and diced
1/2 C cabbage, finely shredded
2 T cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
3 T canola oil
3 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Corn tortillas, warmed

In a heavy sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Do not burn. Remove and discard garlic, but retain oil.

Add the shrimp, serrano chiles, and black pepper. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the shrimp turn pink and curl, about 3 to 4 minutes total, turning once. Pour in the brandy and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add a pinch or two of salt, sprinkle lightly with cilantro and tossed. Slice shrimp into 1/2″ pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the onion, tomato, radishes, cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, canola and olive oils, and sea salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat well. Serve in corn tortillas.

TACOS DE LENGUA (TONGUE TACOS)

1 fresh calf tongue (about 3 lbs)

8 C+ chicken broth
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
10 black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

Warm corn tortillas
Cabbage, finely shredded
Yellow onion, peeled and diced
Cilantro leaves, chopped
Quartered lime wedges
Salsa verde*

Corn tortillas, warmed

Rinse tongue well. Cover the tongue and remaining ingredients with broth (or equal parts broth and water) in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off the froth on the surface after a few minutes. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove tongue, and very briefly plunge into an ice and cold water bath to cease the cooking process. Drain and dry well, then begin skinning with fingers and a paring knife. The skin should come off easily. Trim away the small bones and gristle.

To carve, place the tongue on its side and, starting at the tip, cut slices thinly on the diagonal.

Serve in warmed corn tortillas with cabbage, onion, radishes, cilantro, lime juice. Drizzle with salsa verde.

TACOS DE PATO (DUCK TACOS)

Tomatillo Salsa
4 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into quarters
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled, and roughly chopped
1-2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
2/3 C cilantro leaves
1/4 C water
2 pinches sea salt

1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh removed and cut into 1/2″ chunks

Assembly
1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C water
1/4 C mirin
3 T honey

2 T canola oil
2 C coarsely shredded roast duck, coarsely shredded

Warmed flour tortillas

Combine tomatillos, garlic, chile and cilantro in food processor or blender. Add 1⁄4 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend by pulses to a coarse purée. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in the avocado.

In a small saucepan, combine the soy, water, mirin and honey. Simmer over medium heat until it just begins to thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.

In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the duck until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1⁄4 cup of the soy-mirin sauce and sauté a bit longer, until the duck meat glistens. Serve duck in warm flour tortillas with the tomatillo salsa and the remaining sweetened soy-mirin sauce.

*Salsa Verde

12 medium fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
3 jalapeño chilies, stemmed, not seeded
8 sprigs cilantro, stems discared and leaves roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 T canola oil
2 C chicken broth
Sea salt

Boil the tomatillos and chilies in salted water for 15 minutes; drain. Place the cooked tomatillos and chiles, cilantro, onion, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until roughly smooth, slightly textural.

Heat the oil in medium heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Pour the tomatillo mixture into the pan and stir for 5 minutes or so, until it thickens. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until it reduces and thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Salt to your preference.

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you…They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination…Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.
~Leviticus 11:10-12

Who sat on the culinary peer review committee of the Old Testament? No shellfish? Ungodly.

GRILLED SHRIMP TANDOORI

Marinade
4 T plain non fat yogurt
2 T fresh lemon juice
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced or grated
2 T honey
2 t garam masala
2 t paprika
2 t turmeric
2 t cumin seeds, roasted and finely ground
2 t coriander seeds, roasted and finely ground
2 t cardamom seeds, roasted and finely ground
2 t crush red pepper flakes
2 t sea salt

1 C fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)

In a medium bowl, combine and whisk together all marinade ingredients. In a baking dish or large ziploc bag, add the marinade and shrimp, then toss evenly to coat. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour, turning occasionally; then, while grill is being prepared, bring shrimp to room temperature. Soak skewers in water while marinating.

Prepare charcoal grill to medium high heat. Add the shrimp to the skewers and grill about 2-3 minutes per side. Garnish with basil.

GRILLED ASIAN SHRIMP WITH RED CURRY PEANUT SAUCE

16 jumbo shrimp, peeled (except for the tails) and cleaned

Marinade
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 T soy sauce
2 T mirin rice wine
2 T sesame oil
1 T nuoc mam nhi (fish sauce)
2 T nuoc mam chay pha san
1 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 T honey
1 T sesame seeds
1/2 t Chinese five spice powder
1/2 T red chili flakes

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Pour the marinade into a baking dish or large ziploc bag, add the shrimp and marinate for about 1 hour, turning a couple of times to coat well. While you are marinating the shrimp, prepare the barbeque grill to medium high and soak the wooden skewers in water. Add the shrimp to the skewers and grill about 2-3 minutes each side, taking care to not over cook the shrimp.

Red Curry Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2 to 3 t Thai red curry paste
8 to 10 T water
2 t peanut or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 C finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then thin with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.

I shall be but a shrimp of an author.
~Thomas Gray, English poet

Shrimp are free swimming, decapod crustaceans with a thin exoskeleton classified in the infraorder Caridea. These bottom dwellers are widely dispersed throughout the world’s marine habitats. The current term “shrimp” originated around the 14th century with the Middle English shrimpe, akin to the Middle Low German schrempen, meaning “to contract or wrinkle.”

Much like meats and poultry with a bone in, shrimp grilled in the shells are more intensely and richly flavored. As an added benefit, leaving the shells on provides a buffer against overcooking, a malady that many shrimp grillers suffer. It should not be forgotten that these delicate shellfish continue to cook once removed from the grill. So, please keep that in mind as overcooked shrimp become mushy and tasteless.

Of course, seafood sustainability should be paramount when choosing shrimp. Currently, imported Black Tiger Shrimp, Tiger Prawn, White Shrimp, Ebi are market names to be avoided. Although shrimp propagate rapidly and are resistant to overfishing, both bottom drifting gillnets and trammel nets are used for shrimp fishing at sea, which can result in bycatch—unwanted fishes and mammals caught accidentally in fishing gear and discarded dead or dying overboard.

When purchasing, shrimp should have uniform color and feel firm to the touch and not limp.

The decision to devein (removing the intestinal tract of shrimp) is basically a matter of aesthetics and personal preference. The word vein is a misnomer as shrimp have an open circulatory system and no real veins. If you demand your shrimp deveined, you can still cook them in their shells. Without removing the shells, simply make a vertical slit with a sharp paring knife about 1/2 into the shrimp down the ridged back and remove the vein that runs down the center.

GRILLED SHRIMP WITH HERB & LEMON MARINADE WITH GRIBICHE OR TOMATO RELISH

18 jumbo shrimp, peeled (except for the tails) and deveined

Herb & Lemon Marinade:
2 T sea salt
2 T freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 T fresh tarragon or parsley leaves, stemmed and finely minced
1 T fresh thyme leaves, stemmed and finely minced
Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Place the salt, pepper, garlic, tarragon, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Let the shrimp marinate in a baking dish or large ziploc bag in the refrigerator, covered for at least 1 hour, turning so they are well coated. Soak wooden skewers in water during the marinating time.

Prepare the barbeque grill to medium high heat. In the meantime, place shrimp on skewers and return to the baking dish, allowing them to reach room temperature.

Place the shrimp on the grill and cook, turning once, until just pinkishly opaque and firm, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve with gribiche (June 2, 2009 post) or tomato relish.*

*Tomato Relish
2 medium ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
2 T yellow onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
2 T capers, drained
2 T parsley, chopped
1 t red pepper flakes
1/4 C red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 C olive oil

Whisk first 6 ingredients in a bowl and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking vigorously. Serve at room temperature.

GRILLED SHRIMP WTH LIMES, CHILIES & GARLIC

16 jumbo shrimp, in the shell

Place cumin seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, just a minute or two, until they are fragrant. Finely grind in a spice or coffee grinder.

Roast ancho and poblano chilies directly over a gas flame, over a charcoal fire or under the broiler on a baking sheet until the entire surface is blackened and blistered, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Place the roasted, blackened chilies in a plastic bag to steam some. Rub off the charred skin, stem and seed.

Marinade:
5 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
Juice of 3 limes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Paste:
4 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 ancho chilies, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 poblano chili, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 scallions or green onions, coarsely chopped
2 t cumin seeds, roasted and ground (see above)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least one hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk thyme, lime juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange the shrimp in a baking dish; cover them well with the lime mixture and marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 1 hour. Turn a couple of times to assure that the shrimp are well coated.

In the meantime in a food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapenos and roasted chilies, scallions, cumin, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, to make a coarse, but pourable paste. Add the cilantro and pulse some more. Set aside and reserve a small portion of the paste for serving over the shrimp. Place the marinating shrimp on skewers and return to the baking dish and spoon the remaining mixture over the shrimp. Coat shrimp well with the paste and allow to marinate for one hour, turning a couple of times.

Prepare the barbeque grill to medium high heat.

In the interim, bring the shrimp to room temperature. Grill the skewered shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn to the other side, cover, and grill another 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pinkish opaque and are slightly firm to the touch. Season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with reserved paste and serve.