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Bacon-wrapped shrimp: Ron Swanson’s favorite food wrapped around his third-favorite food.

(Ed: I’m going to write about Parks and Recreation and make some references to events that unfolded in this most recent season, but there are are no spoilers about the actual finale here as I wrote this prior to it being aired.)

To thoroughly transpose a line from Shakespeare, I come not to bury Parks and Recreation, but to praise it. After all, It was truly the little sitcom that could–much like its spiritual predecessor, it started out with a shaky and short first season and then quickly found its footing with its second–but for whatever reason it never was able to break out to a huge audience despite being one of the smartest and funniest comedies on TV. To be an ardent fan meant knowing the show was constantly on the brink of cancellation year after year (with few exceptions), so while I’m annoyed that NBC has decided to burn off this final season by airing episodes back-to-back for seven weeks, I’m grateful that the series was able to make it to 125 episodes in the first place.

There are so many things to love about this show, but I think what may stay with me the most is that no other show, certainly in recent memory, used food to comedic effect better than Parks.* (30 Rock came close with its night cheese and a dogs taking steaks and Cheesy Blasters, though.) Whether it was grandiose set pieces like the Snake-Juice-fueled disaster from “The Fight” to the simple act of Tom Haverford singing “this is how you eat it” before diving into a hot pepper, food so often served as a springboard for fantastic comedic moments but also showed that it could forge bonds between even the most unlikeliest of people. In a recent interview Michael Schur noted that food (and specifically breakfast food) was a way for Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson specifically to come to an accord despite deeply different political viewpoints:

They are such different people, and we independently arrived at Leslie + waffles and Ron + bacon, so suddenly it seemed like a point of overlap. I always thought of it as hopeful. There is an old trick of diplomacy, where if you have two warring factions who agree to sit down at a table, you first choose something very simple and uncontroversial that they can agree on. You say, “What does everyone want to drink, water or motor oil?” When they all say water, you have begun the session with a point of mutual agreement. For Leslie and Ron, a 19th-century libertarian and a 21st-century progressive, that thing is breakfast food.

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Charred Lemon Gin Sparklers with Shrimp Fritters

So Thanksgiving happened, it’s now December, we’re moving very soon, and I may be feeling a wee bit stressed about it. The movers come next week, and I’ll be home on the packing day working while they box up all of our stuff. In the meantime we’re trying to get all of our things organized as best we can and cleaning everything as much as possible. We’re at the point where I’m simply anxious to be there so I can do things like quickly register my car and get a parking pass for the neighborhood as well as the more fun tasks of organizing all of our stuff and getting a few new pieces, but we still have a bit of a ways to go before we get to that stage.

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Shrimp and Orange Salad with Arugula and Fennel

It’s not even August and apparently stores are stocking their shelves for Hallow-freaking-ween. I’m very much aware that holiday creep is a huge thing in retail (back-to-school seems to go back on the shelves around the Fourth) but especially after the winter so many of us had to endure this year, well, cheering on the arrival of the season of inevitable misery seems abominably cruel. It’s not like this summer has been particularly arduous here in the Northeast—we’ve had some periods of hot and/or humid weather, but we’ve been pretty lucky so far: a day or two of intense humidity have beckoned a cold front blowing through almost immediately thereafter, and otherwise we’ve had pretty pleasant weather. There have been many a weekend afternoon spent on the local beaches, and even an evening or two listening to the rain while we sit on our balcony.

In short, I’m doing everything I can to appreciate the summer while it’s here, and I will be loath to give it up because gauzy clothes and cool drinks are superior to woolly socks, fun-size candies and hot toddies, no matter what anyone says. Read More

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l'all amb reducció de cava

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l’all amb reducció de cava

The last few weeks have not been particularly kind to us here at The Manhattan [food] Project, thanks to a series of injuries, illnesses, and mounting work stress that inevitably comes at the end of the calendar year. While everyone is physically fine (or at least close to it) now, in the last few weeks I had to deal with a husband who had a nasty sinus infection and a father who smacked his head against a curb when he tripped on a slippery ramp in Danbury during a weekend visit. (They are both fine now, but I feel like my sanity was hanging by a thread there for a while.) Even before all of that excitement I had been feeling discouraged, frustrated, and uninspired, and had it not been for an email exchange with a lovely reader, I’d be a lot crankier right now because I wouldn’t have this dish, straight from La Boqueria, in my repertoire. Read More

Barbecue Shrimp, New Orleans Style

Barbecue Shrimp, New Orleans Style

A few Sundays ago, when we were waiting for our flight back to New York from Chicago, Michael and I were wandering through the United Express terminal at O’Hare and saw that there was a flight to New Orleans was on the board, and while it was full…we saw two seats were open. For all of two minutes we toyed with the fantasy of getting a flight there instead of back home, but alas–practicality won the day. (Also helping: those two seats were gone by the time we came back from getting a bite to eat.)

So while there are no immediate plans to take in the NOLA food and music in person, at least we have this season of Top Chef to live vicariously and recipes from Saveur to transport us there…if only for a meal.  Read More

Ajo blanco de malagueño (or, white gazpacho)

Ajo blanco de malagueño (or, white gazpacho)

Yes, that’s a whole mess of Spanish and Català up there in the post title.  No, I make no apologies.

This meal was a bit ambitious for us, even for a Sunday night: in the mood for some delicious José Andrés-style tapas after hearing about Michael’s visit to Zaytinya during his recent trip to DC. Picking four dishes (the three listed here, along with a variation of this salad), I made a plan to get some of the work done early in the afternoon, after my workout but before I went down the street to see the Chilean movie No at the local non-profit movie theater. I really thought that I had it all in hand: I made the sofrito for the rossejat after we got back from the store, and everything else was pretty much self-explanatory. Or so I thought. Read More

Roncal-stuffed piquilo peppers

Roncal-stuffed piquilo peppers

Michael didn’t really believe me, I think, when I first mentioned that a storm was coming this weekend (and said storm has since blanketed the Northeast with a sizable amount of snow), but he willingly went along with my plan to stay in on Friday and Saturday and cook anyway. He balked a bit when I came home Thursday night laden with bags of provisions–likely thinking I was going overboard–but lo and behold, my instinct to stock up was right on the nose. That I was also able to get in and out of Fairway despite the fuller-than-usual parking lot was simply a bonus.

So while the snow fell and the wind howled on Friday night, we opened up a bottle of prosecco and got to work on a tapas spread. The one you see above was a bit of a punt. A delicious, delicious, punt.

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