Paying for Gluttony: Shrimp Salad Stir Fry

I am a glutton and proud of it. Unlike the typical red-blooded American addiction to “Mickey Dee’s” and Coca-Cola, my gluttony finds form in artisanal cheeses, dark chocolates, Sauvignon Blanc, and dry-aged rib-eyes.

Whole weekends revolve around food. Dinners are planned weeks in advance. Jim and I are known to turn down invitations to go out because we want a Saturday night with nothing to do but cook, snack, and watch reruns of The Wire. When we do go out, we hound friends about where and what we’ll eat, whether the restaurant is Zagat rated and—“just in case”—we stash some homemade snacks in my bag.

If you invite me over to your kitchen, I’m cooking dinner, and it will be a decadent, waistband-popping, many-plated meal. If I invite you out for dinner, rest assured that I’ve researched everything about the restaurant’s menu, making certain it will appease everyone’s palate.

I’m constantly pushing my favorite foods on friends and family, and long, languid afternoons are often spent talking about idolized chefs and perfect meals.

So, it’s no surprise that I spend Mondays popping antacids and sulking about my weight. It’s also a reason why I don’t normally blog about Mondays’ dinners of bare fish and salads. Tonight, however, things were different.

Cursing my lack of willpower—that fifth piece of pizza on Saturday, those chocolate dipped cookies on Sunday—I wallowed in self pity late last night, wallowing until it began to feel good. I felt happy about my indulgences—lucky that I can eat the foods I love, lucky to have loved ones to share with. And by embracing my gluttony, I started to feel good about my Monday healthy dinner and got creative. A variation on my fish and salad Mondays, this stir fry was almost too satisfying to be so healthy!

Shrimp Salad Stir Fry

Serve with a white sticky rice. If you don’t have a large wok, use the biggest skillet you have for this recipe—the lettuce takes up a LOT of room before it wilts!

  • 1 to 1½ pounds shrimp, deveined and tailed.
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 hearts of romaine lettuce, each head cut crosswise once or twice
  • 1 T canola oil
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 3 T dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

To make sauce, combine broth, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Heat canola oil in a wok over high heat, once hot add garlic and fry about 1 minute, stirring. Add shrimp and fry for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add 1/3 of lettuce, stirring until it beings to wilt and make room in the wok. Add second 1/3 of lettuce and stir until that begins to wilt. Add remaining lettuce and sauce. Simmer for a few minutes. Serve over white rice (unless you’ve eaten too many carbs over the weekend!)

Chipotle Shrimp

When I was younger (okay, up until two years ago) I hated shrimp. I thought they looked like baby fetuses of the sea, and I just couldn’t eat a baby (though I did manage to eat my share of veal parmigiana.)

I realize now that shrimps in fact do not look like baby fetuses (that much), and that I really have no way of telling how old a shrimp is when I eat it, and that it’s quite possible the shrimp lived a long and fulfilled life before throwing himself into the net to avoid dementia in his twilight years.

Yes, I’m positive that’s how most shrimp are caught—so let’s eat!

Chipolte Shrimp

Though this shrimp doesn’t need cocktail sauce, I prefer it anyway—as long as you have a good one. Lou’s Cocktail sauce is far and away my favorite brand.

Time: 10 minutes (if your shrimps are already cleaned)

Equipment: A small bowl, a plate or pan, a skillet

  • 1 pound of shrimp (Jumbo Gulf shrimp if you can get them), cleaned and deveined
  • ¼ cup regular mayonnaise
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. chili paste
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ cup (or more) Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  1. Place mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix in chili paste and chili powder. Taste test your chipolte mayonnaise and see if you need to add more paste or powder. Spread panko breadcrumbs in a baking sheet or on a large plate.
  2. When the mayonnaise is perfect to your liking, dredge the shrimp in the mayonnaise and then the breadcrumbs. Add more breadcrumbs if needed.
  3. Pour olive oil around your skillet on medium-high heat. Add in shrimps. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until their colory is a creamy pink.
  4. Enjoy!

Ota-Ya Sushi

Ota-Ya

Before I begin, here’s my disclaimer: I love sushi, but my tastes are unrefined. I enjoy fancy sushi, clean pieces of fresh-tasting fish with no adornments save a bed of rice, yet I’ll admit it’s not my favorite. I’m obsessed with the gaudy, over-indulging, fat sushi rolls, with names like “Incredible” and “Godzilla.” These mounds of spicy tuna, tempura flakes, fried eel, avocado and caviar are so insanely good that when I get the craving I need to run out to the nearest sushi joint and gorge myself.

My nearest sushi joint is Ota-Ya. (Really not so near at all–40 minute drive!) Housed in Lambertville, New Jersey, I’m pretty sure they have another in NYC. The place is chintzy-charming, with cute Asian decor and fat orange fish swimming (and counting their blessings) in a large tank behind the sushi chef.

The sushi at Ota-Ya is consistently good. My favorite, the Valentine Roll, has mounds of spicy tuna and red caviar on top. I love popping the fish eggs between my teeth, releasing the slippery-salty Omega-3 oils inside, despite how gross that sounds.

We tried a new roll last night, the Sushi Spring Roll. Each piece had a different topping: mango, eel, or avocado. The mango topping was my favorite–inside the roll was a hint of sweetness, and the fruit complimented this well.

We had to take a bite before the pictures!

Tonight, I’m cooking for our friend Alex, who celebrated a birthday this week. He’s a vegetarian, and I always have fun researching and creating vegetarian dishes with him. I think we’ll try a creamy pasta primavera tonight–I’ll make sure to post the outcome!

Don’t fear the Bluefish.

Bluefish is the cheapest fish available at my New Jersey market. Five dollars a pound, compared to sometimes 21 for wild-caught salmon. The fishmonger says that bluefish is both more prevalent and too fishy for most people, so therefore cheap.

I’ve heard this before, that bluefish doesn’t taste good, is too fishy, smells too funny. People consistently turn up their noses when I talk about bluefish.

So why does mine taste so good, while the rest of the world scrapes their fish in the trash? I’ve come to the conclusion that my boyfriend must be some kind of fish-cook-superman.

Really. He’s good.

I enjoy my boyfriend’s plain, olive oil pan-fried fish more than any comparably prepared fish in any restaurant. Swanky New York joints included. And he does it so effortlessly and without all of the complaining and nervousness exhibited by moi when I’m cooking.

How does he do this? Good question.

“Because I know how to crisp a skin,” He tells me. I nod lovingly. Go on…

“By rubbing the blade of a knife along the skin, applying enough pressure to squeegee off any excess water,” He’s so eloquent, this is verbatim.

“Then I sear the top of the fish and then flip onto the skin, cooking mostly on the skin side,” He goes on. I nod and smile once more, signally I no longer need him and that I want to write my blog. I look up and he is still there.

“And liberal olive oil! None of that skimpy shit!” Okay. Things have gotten a bit heated now.

I tell him we are done here.

Before leaving the room to go work on his beautifully begun novel, he yells, “And you know what could make it better–pour chocolate all over it! Chocolate!” I think he is either trying to be funny, or seeing if I am any longer paying attention to him.

I keep my eyes on my computer desk. He retreats.

So now everyone, we know the secret of the bluefish. It seems appropriate to laugh maniacally, but I don’t want Jim to think I’m crazy.

Crab-happy

The fact that you enjoy something doesn’t mean you should over-indulge. I enjoy the occasional glass of scotch, or the hunk of flour-less chocolate truffle cake, but I don’t have to explain why too much of either could cause problems. This is why my new obsession with crab makes me happy. There is no reason not to indulge in all the crab I can get my claws on. Other than the fact I’ll go broke (at the supermarket yesterday, a pound of jumbo lump was 34. freaking 99), crab will do nothing but good for me, especially when prepared with loads of veggies in a scrumptious, dinner sized, salad.

This crab salad recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit, August 1995, made into dinner proportions and some ingredients are tweaked to my liking. I was wary of it at first, but since I told Jim to print out a crab salad recipe and didn’t bother to check what he had chosen until we were already at the supermarket, I gave it a try–and I am so glad I did. This crab salad was DELICIOUS!

Crab Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chopped tart green apple
    (such as Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped seeded red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped seeded green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 pound crabmeat, drained well, picked over
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Sauce

  • 4 small heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Pinch of ground hot chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

2 heads Belgian endive, trimmed, separated into spears
Chopped fresh chives

For Crab Salad

  1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and ginger and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add apple, zucchini, both bell peppers and carrot and sauté until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix crabmeat, mayonnaise, 4 tablespoons chopped chives. Add sautéd vegetables in large bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Sauce:

  1. Combine tomatoes, cilantro, vinegar, garlic and cayenne in blender and puree until almost smooth. Gradually add oil and blend until sauce is thick. Transfer to medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange endive spears on large platter, tips toward platter edge. Spoon crab salad into center of platter. Drizzle sauce over endive. Garnish salad with chopped fresh chives and serve.

I used natural pasteurized canned crab. To eliminate some of the canned taste that I don’t like, I washed the crab a few times before using. Canned crab isn’t as oceany fresh as the real stuff, but because of all the vegetables, apple, and herbs in this recipe, it really doesn’t make a difference. I haven’t had much luck anyway, in finding fresh already extracted crab meat anywhere. Ohh, how I wish I lived by the sea…