Friday, April 20, 2012

Out Briefly from Africa -- with Great Shrimp
What's cooking? Mango Salad with Grilled Shrimp




A Prologue
I have to apologize for the delay in getting my second Africa post out – I’ve been dealing with a phenomenon known mostly to food writers, which I’m calling OPR: Other People’s Recipes.

We had a delicious salad at our hotel in Cape Town, and a really interesting South African dish as an appetizer on the train from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Never shy about these things, I wrote to the Customer Service/Marketing people at both places and asked for the recipes. Both seemed happy to help, and forwarded my request to the appropriate chefs.

Then the fun started. One chef sent me a list of ingredients with no quantities or instructions. The second sent ingredients plus quantities, but they must have been trying too hard to either downsize the recipe or to translate from the metric measures, with the result that I got a recipe calling for (among other ingredients) 11 ounces of beef to feed 20 people, plus two (2!) raisins, yet a full tablespoon of curry powder. Hmmm... Not sure that one will work. So while I play with these recipes to give you something you can actually use and enjoy, ...




It’s Raining Books

A good friend’s daughter is getting married soon, and I wanted to give her a shower. But the bride and groom will be in graduate school in the New York area for a number of years; and as I know all too well, New York apartments – especially for students – are, well, small at best. Storage of the gifts would be an issue. So the question became: What type of shower? I remembered a great wine shower friends had given me and my husband when we got married, but this new bride and groom don’t drink. Then I remembered the bride had told me they want to dedicate space in their home to a small library, so I decided to have a book shower. After all, even in the smallest apartment, there are walls, and walls are really good for holding books – both as a source of artistic display and cheap entertainment. Besides, I love books.

It was one of those serendipitous situations when your friends have amazingly clever and varied ideas of how to respond to a somewhat unusual request. People brought leather-bound books of history, scrumptious coffee table books of art and photography, jewel-sized books of poetry, classic children’s books, a terrific collection of one friend’s favorite books on home decor, and a spectacular pop-up book of Brooklyn. Another friend, who’s on tour with her own first book, sent a copy of that. And each one carried an inscription about why this book was special to the giver.

Serving a bunch of women at lunch, you’d best keep the meal light unless you want a lot of food left over. I served Salad Monique from Eric Ripert, the great chef and owner of New York’s Le Bernardin – a perfectly delicious mélange of vegetables and fruit and the longest list of ingredients I’ve ever seen in a salad. It’s easy to assemble, since you can do most of the prep work the night before.

I needed something more, and shrimp seemed to fill the bill. I didn’t have a recipe in mind, so I went trolling on epicurious.com and found Mango Salad with Grilled Shrimp, from the May 2001 issue of Gourmet. You can’t marinate shrimp for more than 10-15 minutes before the marinade starts to break down the flesh and turn the shrimp mushy, but this recipe includes a dressing of sorts that I brushed on the shrimp and let sit for only 10 minutes, while the grill was heating up. I was a bit nervous about the jalapeño, but the grilling process removes most of the heat yet not the flavor; and in the salad. the Aleppo pepper added just the right balance of heat against the cool mango. The combo was so fresh and bright that I lamented having only a few shrimp left over.

Kitchen Goddess note: The Easy Button for this recipe is to get peeled and sliced mangoes from Costco. They’re packaged in chunks, which you’ll still have to downsize for the salad; but it’s a bit like having the store as your sous-chef – the hard work has been done for you.

Mango Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2001, which in turn adapted it from Mnemba Island Lodge in Tanzania.

Serves 4 as a first course or a luncheon entrée.

Ingredients
For mango salad:
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
⅛ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 firm-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced [see note below]
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

For shrimp:
16 extra jumbo shrimp (size 16-20 per pound), shelled and deveined, but with tail on
2 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
1 medium fresh jalapeño chile, minced (with or without seeds, depending on your love of heat)
2 rounded teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
12-inch wooden skewers, soaked for 30-60 minutes in water

Preparation:
To assemble the mango salad, in a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar and the lime juice until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the Aleppo pepper and shallot, then add the mangoes, stirring gently until well combined. Let the mixture sit for at least a half hour before serving. Save the cilantro and mint to add just before serving.

For the shrimp, stir together the vegetable/canola oil, minced jalapeño, cumin, and salt. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and thread shrimp onto the soaked skewers, about 4 per skewer. Lay the skewered shrimp on a large sheet pan or tray. (At this point, you can cover the tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate the marinade mix in a bowl or jar.) When you are 10-15 minutes away from grilling the shrimp, brush the marinade mix over the shrimp and let sit until ready to grill.


Grill shrimp at medium heat for 2 minutes per side. Just before serving, stir the cilantro and mint into the mango mix. Arrange shrimp on top of mango salad, or simply lay a skewer of shrimp on top.

Kitchen Goddess notes:
1. I plan to try this again and cut the mangoes into half-inch dice, which I think would be prettier.

2. For a little variety, when I do make it again, I’m going to serve it with a simpler side dish – like asparagus or a plain green salad – and try adding diced firm avocado and diced celery or English (thin-skinned) cucumber.


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