There is really nothing more satisfying than creating a new dish and serving it to Tott. She is so appreciative! Drew is, too, but he is bound by marriage to like what I do. Tott is not, so when she smacks her lips in approval, I am gratified.
We were digging through my Paula Peck cookbook this weekend when we came across "Red Fish Veracruzana." It sounded wonderful, but it's kind of a pain to get fresh fish around here. It can be done, but it's not cheap or easy. (So many "cheap and easy" jokes could be made right here at either my or Tott's expense; I'll refrain.) Anyway, I decided to make it using shrimp instead. With a few improvisations, it resulted in a dish that I'd serve to real company, not just Tott.
The recipe is quick and relatively light, too. Served with a green salad with some ripe avacado, it was a perfectly wonderful meal.
1 pound of shrimp, heads off, peel on
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 onions, minced
½ onion, not chopped
1 stalk celery, rough chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 can crushed tomatoes (or 2 cups of fresh tomatoes, seeded, peeled, and diced)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup white wine (preferably sauvignon blanc)
½ cup green olives, sliced
½ cup black olives, sliced
½ cup cilantro, minced
First, peel the shrimp. Do not throw the shrimp peels away. Put them in a small pot with the ½ onion, lemon cut in half, cayenne, and fill with water to cover. Simmer over low heat while chopping other veggies. This is your shrimp stock.
Take a medium saucepan and heat on medium. Add olive oil to coat bottom. Once oil is hot, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Once veggies are soft, add basil, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and bay. Toss and let cook about 2 minutes longer. In those 2 minutes, strain the shrimp stock. Add ½ a cup to the pan of veggies. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, wine, and sugar. You may add hot sauce liberally at this step if you like things caliente.
Cook down until sauce thickens up a bit and comes together–maybe 5-10 minutes on medium heat. Once you’ve tasted the sauce and you like it, add the shrimp. Cook until the moment they all look white/pink on the outside–NO LONGER. Then, immediately take off of the heat and stir in the olives and cilantro. If you are decadent, and I am, swirl in about 2 tablespoons of soft butter at this point, stirring until completely dissolved. Serve atop rice or pasta.