When I mentioned our then-upcoming trip to England to colleagues and the like, the general consensus from them was along the lines of “well, England’s great but the food was pretty disappointing.” Considering that our only other two trips across the pond were to food meccas Spain and Italy we both were ready to accept that the meals that we were anticipating would be less-than-amazing and we’d come home and console ourselves with loads of homemade food.
You know what? We were wrong–and it really started with the food we enjoyed at my best friend’s wedding.
Wedding food is always a tricky subject, because anything that is prepared is going to be made in for at least 100 people, and few dishes hold up to that kind of bulk cooking really well. Michael and I were very pleased with the food at our venue (especially the finger foods during cocktail hour) and we’ve had some pretty great stuff (like Spätzle!) at other weddings we’ve attended, but it’s generally accepted that awesome food at weddings is the exception, not the rule. It just can’t be helped sometimes.
So imagine my surprise at being presented with plate after plate of delicious food…at a wedding…in Oxford! The food was all very simply prepared and absolutely lovely but the favorite dish for me was our starter: a salad of rocket (arugula to us Yanks), grilled prawns and tomatoes. (Aside: England has KICKASS tomatoes. Who knew?) Unsurprisingly I knew that this dish would have to be replicated once we got home, but I wanted to wait until the tomatoes were starting to get really good to even give it a try–and Fairway selling Campari tomatoes for $2 a box (they normally run $4-5 a package even in the summertime) was the perfect excuse to give this a try.
The results were pretty darn good: while the tomatoes were a little too large, coating them with a little olive oil and using the residual heat from the grill pan warmed them through enough so that upon cutting into them a warm vinaigrette and combined perfectly with the rocket and the prawns. We adapted the grilled shrimp recipe from Barcelona due to its glorious simplicity for our grilled prawns, and all together the salad bore a nice resemblance to the simple and elegant first course we enjoyed across the Atlantic.
The pasta dish was a favorite from Giada DeLaurentiis’ Everyday Pasta–cappellini with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. It’s so light and requires so little cooking between the pasta and the sauce that it’s perfect for summertime noshing, and pairs perfectly with your favorite dry white wine. It was a great main course for two people wanting a light and refreshing meal–but I have to say that it was overshadowed by our first pass at recreating one of the best salads I’ve ever had.
Grilled Prawns with Rocket and Campari Tomatoes
- 2 C baby arugula (rocket), washed and well-dried
- 8 cherry tomatoes, drizzled in olive oil
- 1/2 lb shrimp in the shell
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Handful of fresh parsley, minced
- Juice of half a lemon
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
Divide and arrange the washed and dried rocket onto two salad plates; set aside. In a bowl, season the shrimp with salt, pepper, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and toss to coat. Place a grill pan onto the stove onto high heat (it’s ready when water sizzles and evaporates) and carefully place shrimp in one layer onto the pan, letting them cook for five minutes on each side. Add garlic and parsley to the pan and cook for an additional 30 seconds and turn the shrimp one more time. Transfer the shrimp to a warm plate and turn off the heat.
Add the tomatoes to the still-hot pan and let warm through for about 3-5 minutes until the skins are slightly scalded and divide between the two salad plates with the rocket. Season gently with salt and squeeze with the remaining lemon juice, and then add the shrimp and serve.