Why can’t we just call this Shrimp and vegetables over couscous? Anyway…
I’m going to keep this one brief, as I think Elizabeth’ great photo speaks for itself. This dish isn’t a traditional preparation, per se, but a movement I’ve been trying to make towards what I will call a floating approach to dinner prep (especially weekday dinners). To me, floating conjures up images of my scientific instruments operating without a lock-on signal. I apply this to mean cooking not tied to (or locked onto, get it?) recipes or specific ingredients which may or not be appropriate/available/etc. on a given day or in a certain situation.
Perhaps this is one of those zen things that every enthusiastic cook is moving towards without necessarily realizing it. As your skills develop, you need to rely less on external references. Here, the existential conditions of that day/week dictated the outcome. The Fairway was (and indeed, still is) carrying wild USA shrimp for the amazing price of $8.99/lb. They are beheaded, but not de-veined or peeled, but the purchase is still very much worth it despite the extra work. Add to this to a increasingly serious personal mission to eat more veggies (a common desire, especially this time of year I think), I added what vegetables I knew I could get away with and that I thought would go well together. I oven roasted the zucchini with lots of salt, pepper and cumin (I also roasted the shrimp in the oven, separately, of course) and sautéed the shallots and fennel on the range. I added some Parm to the couscous and piled on my ingredients. Done and done.
As much I wish I could, I still can’t quite freestyle like this every single night. I plan meals too, and unless I want to quit my job and spend everyday going to Fairway and Westside market, things will stay that way. As a person gains confidence in the kitchen, a small amount of audacity should surreptitiously follow. There’s nothing wrong with throwing caution to the wind. The fear of ‘clashing flavors’ isn’t as real as we think and if you’re focusing on what’s in season and looks good instead of what a recipe demands, the benefits to the taste from freshness alone should more than make up for it. PLUS, food purchased in season is cheaper and more environmentally sustainable. So there you go, win-win-win. So be bold, treasured readers- take small steps if you feel timid but above all, cook on!