Chop-and-Chat Recipes

December 13th, 2010 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Seafood

With all the rather large variables conspiring against family dinner (long hours, long commutes, overscheduled kids) sometimes the best thing you can do to feel in control of the situation is eliminate a bunch of the smaller variables. You know how I feel about getting the milk poured before you start to cook, and about dreaming up strategies to distract the kids while you go about your mincing. But, in my humble opinion, the biggest of the little variables is choosing meals that you are comfortable making, meals that don’t require a recipe or so much focus that you can’t simultaneously chop the tomatoes and carry on a conversation about the cafeteria seating politics of third grade. Not only is it more likely you will cook a fresh, homemade meal, but — if you are working outside the home — you won’t feel like you’re spending yet another half hour apart from the kids after being away from them all day. Only you know the recipes that are filed in the chop-and-chat category in your house, but in mine, it’s this shrimp taco recipe. You should of course feel free to steal it, practice it, and make it your own.

Could anything make me less angry than my little companion stealing cabbage while I prep the fixins?

Easy Shrimp Tacos
Commit this to memory and then throw away the recipe!

Squeeze some fresh lime juice over 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of shelled raw shrimp. In a large skillet, heat a few glugs of olive or vegetable oil over medium heat and add 1 halved garlic clove. Cook until garlic is golden but not burned, then remove from oil. Add a handful of chopped onion (red, yellow, whatever), a dash of red pepper flakes to taste, salt, and pepper. Add shrimp then cook about 2 minutes a side until the shrimp has been cooked through. Remove to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warn. Wipe down skillet with a paper towel and heat as many whole wheat tortillas (over high heat, about 30 seconds a side) as you need to feed the family. (Six works for our family of four.)

Serve with small bowls of chopped avocado, sliced red cabbage, sliced cherry tomatoes that have been tossed with a spoonful of salsa, and sour cream that has been mixed with a squeeze of lime, a pinch of sugar, and cilantro.

Have the kids assemble their own tacos at the table.

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Shrimp, Meet Angel Hair

October 26th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Quick, Seafood

My daughters are 20 months apart in age. When they were babies, people would take one look at the hollowed-out shells that once housed our functioning selves and say It’s tough now, but you’ll be so grateful later when they play together. I thought these people were lying just to make me feel better. We were so in the thicket of “now” that we couldn’t imagine a “later.” I could not fathom these helpless little things entertaining each other, or a time when we would trade in defensive parenting — hovering, watching, reacting — for active parenting. Nor could I imagine a time when they’d actually sit down to a real meal with us. The sitting part stymied me, as did the “real meal” part. Their plates held not so much dinner as a poor man’s tapas selection: cubes of raw red peppers, microscopic pieces of chicken or shrimp, a little bowl of noodles. But I turned a corner the day I decided to marry two of those foods to make one: Angel Hair with Shrimp. It’s so simple it seems almost stupid, but it worked as a perfect inaugural family dinner because the shrimp and pasta mix together without fully integrating. So if it flops, you can always send the ingredients back to their separate corners. And if it works, the kids get a real meal, and you get a glimpse of your future.

Angel Hair with Shrimp

In a medium pot, cook angel hair as directed on package. Drain and toss with olive oil in the colander to prevent noodles from sticking. Return the pot to the stovetop and turn heat to medium. Add more olive oil, one chopped shallot (or 1/2 onion), one clove of garlic (minced), a few red pepper flakes (optional), salt and pepper, and cook about one minute, nestling garlic amidst the onions to prevent it from burning. Push to the side, turn up heat slightly, and add 3/4 pound of cleaned shrimp. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes on one side, then when you flip them over, pull in the onions and toss until everything is cooked through. Squeeze a little lemon on the shrimp, then add the angel hair, tossing to combine. Add a handful of chopped parsley, unless you think it will render prospects of consumption null and void.

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Spicy Shrimp with Lime

April 30th, 2010 · 16 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Seafood

Here is the very definition of a Nice Problem: A healthy dinner that cooks too quickly, allowing for no time to savor a glass of wine while one prepares it. I’m not kidding. This spicy shrimp (adapted over the years from an old Cooking Light recipe) takes about 10 minutes from start to finish — and closer to five if you have the spices mixed already. Phoebe requests the dish often, so we periodically prepare a stash of the smokey paprika rub to have it ready to go — the spice mixture even gets its own special jar painted with her name. Of course, in the eyes of the little sister, there is no more flagrant example of condiment injustice, so we painted a jar for her, too and filled it with McCormick’s California Garlic Powder.

I only had regular Nan toasts to serve with the shrimp, but you can find whole wheat at most supermarkets.

Spicy Shrimp with Cilantro and Lime

Below are the spice amounts to sprinkle over one shrimp dinner for four. Triple or quadruple if you want to make a stash to have on hand for the next time.

Phoebe’s Spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
pinch cinnamon

1. Mix together the above spices. Sprinkle over 1  1/4 pounds of peeled shrimp.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to pan — try to get the spiced side down — and saute 5 minutes until done, adding more spice as they flip around and cook.

3. Toast a few pieces of Nan (such as Kontos brand) and serve with cooked shrimp, a spoonful of plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, sliced almonds and a squeeze of lime.

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