I have been reading the memoirs of food writer Ruth Reichl over the last couple of weeks. I completed Tender At the Bone on Wednesday and ran out to purchase another of her books the following day. I love her writing. She has created a life devoted to sensation, of following her instinct to find something as basic as food that tastes good. In Tender At the Bone, she recounts growing up under the tyrannical rule of the Queen of Mold, her manic-depressive mother who would routinely serve green sour cream and fuzzy bread. Her stories of her mother’s most memorable and horrific occasions, including an engagement party for her brother that sent 29 people to hospital with food poisoning, are almost impossible to believe. While most food writers highlight personal backgrounds that encouraged good eating, Reichl reveals that storytelling was prized in her family. I find myself reading her words slowly, savouring them as I would a good meal. I have yet to understand this response and I am curious to discover what makes her writing so different.
New ingredients create new opportunities for discovery. I have been shopping at Loblaws with the weekly sale flyer in hand, so I have been buying a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally eat and in large quantities. One of the results of my shopping trips was six hearts of Romaine lettuce (five bucks!) as well as a bag of avocados. As such, I dug out my copy of Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love and realized I had been ignoring a treasure trove. Her “Shrimp and Avocado Salad on Lettuce and Sorrel” was the inspiration for my recipe below, seeing as I had several pounds of shrimp in the freezer from another shopping spree. I haven’t made her version, but I highly recommend her combination of soy sauce, lemon juice and avocado, three ingredients I never before thought to marry. My version is served warm and thus much easier to make.
WARM SHRIMP AND AVOCADO SALAD
1 Romaine heart, chopped
1 small or 1/2 large avocado, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp chopped basil (or mint, parsley or coriander)
2 tsp oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
pinch hot pepper flakes
handful of frozen uncooked shrimp (about 3 oz.)
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
juice of 1/4 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare salad by chopping clean lettuce and placing leaves in a salad bowl or dinner plate. Arrange avocado slices and chopped basil on top. Set aside.
Heat the oil and garlic in a small frying pan on medium high heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the shrimp. Fry five minutes, turning shrimp to cook both sides. When shrimp are pink, add soy sauce and lemon juice and heat for another few seconds. Remove from heat and pour directly over vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!