Spicy Shrimp with Fried Plantains and Mango Avocado Salsa

I left August 29, and I’ve finally returned. I’ve seen Kenya- the Masai Mara, Nairobi, Mombasa, Diani Beach- hiked in New Hampshire and dined in Boston, battled sandflies in Michigan, worked in Atlanta, celebrated weddings in North Carolina, biked Orange County, waved at seals in La Jolla, and shopped in Los Angeles. Two months, and more travel than I could possibly squeeze into a (relatively) functioning work schedule, and I wait on the edge of my seat to finally settle down and relax in Chicago. It’s the right moment, see, because while the dog days of summer and picturesque, perfect days of early fall are tantalizingly beautiful along the Chicago lakefront, they are also days of activity and adventure. You can’t slow down; I won’t slow down; not until the leaves fall. So here it is, the first day I could smell the crispness to the air, the undefinable quality that forebodes the dropping temperatures and the consequently required heavy jackets. After four years in and outside this city, it feels almost comforting to notice this change. While Chicago thrives in the summer, at its heart, it is a winter city. Many may argue against that, but genuinely, those who live here endure and make magic of these (truly) 8 months of cold weather. So much so, that it only feels right, somewhat like a homecoming, to be back among the chilly air and more brusque breezes. No one will admit to liking it; far from it. I’d rather perpetual September and October for the rest of time. But it is calming, to be on this side of things. I’m ready to slow down, embrace it, and warm up by the artificial dry heat of my antiquated radiators. This is made significantly better by a pumpkin-clove candle from Anthropologie, which is the best smelling thing to ever enter my apartment. All I need now is the return of my dachshunds.

I had intended on sharing a recipe for sweet potato ramen in a curried broth, which was excellent, innovative, and aesthetic. But, somehow, I threw out the recipe. Usually I remember a recipe well enough, but I can’t be certain in this one, and it’s worth doing right. I’ll have to repeat the process (possibly not burn my hands on the soft boiled egg next time), and share in the coming months. What I’m sharing today is, quite obviously, a remnant from my weeks doing Whole 30. The biggest problem with Whole 30 is going to Kenya immediately afterward and forgetting all of it. Problem? Maybe that’s the best thing to do. Regardless, I did eat well during that challenge, from a health and flavor standpoint, and some recipes bear posting, even outside of my current dietary restraints (of which I have none). So, without further ado, a very delicious, albeit distinctly summery, dinner.

shrimp and plantains

Spicy Shrimp with Fried Plantains and Mango Avocado Salsa

Serves 4

  • 1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tossed in the juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 2 plantains, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp. ghee
  • 2 avocado, diced
  • 2 mango, diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt & pepper

In a mixing bowl, toss together the avocado, mango, shallot, and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

In a large sauté pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and season with the spices above. Turn after 2-3 minutes, once the bottom side is appearing lightly pink and opaque. Cook another 2-3 minutes and remove from the pan.

In the same sauté pan, add 2 tbsp ghee over medium high heat. Add the plantains and toast for 2-4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and cooked the alternative side. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan.

Plate the shrimp and plantains with a side of the mango avocado salsa. Enjoy!

Mango Chicken

The trouble with life is that it keeps going. Sometimes you’d really benefit from punching life in the face, taking a nap for 2 weeks, then starting from a fresh place. But what actually happens is you get a flat tire in a snowstorm and then get in a car accident in a snow storm 4 days later and then have to go grocery shopping lest you live another week on Larabars and cafeteria soup. Sometimes life throws so many lemons at your face you feel like you’re in a lemon mountain, and you’re not quite sure if there’s anything more than lemons out there. These times call for a solid nap, a quiet place, a really interesting and captivating book, and a steaming hot and comforting meal. Maybe followed by wine; I won’t judge. It may be that you only get 24 hours before life demands you become productive again, but if you work at relaxing hard enough, you can come out almost like new. (I’ll take an interlude to say, what really would help me out is if someone could just fly me to Hawaii for a month long vacation, where sipping beach drinks and “surfing” are the only tasks required of me. I’d appreciate this trip for free, also). As I was driving home from the car service center, in my lovely new rental car for the week, I overwhelmingly began to crave my favorite dish from Rangoli, a truly beautiful and delicious Indian restaurant on the West side near my old apartment. Sitting in traffic, I knew there was absolutely no way I was taking a (probably) hour and a half detour just for dinner, as I had only eaten (the rest of my) yogurt and cereal as my meal for the day. However, I knew I needed groceries, so I convinced myself to drive home, grab groceries in under 30 minutes, and try my hand at my own version. This, as my luck would currently not have it, turned out amazingly well on the first try. I believe I may have perfectly replicated the recipe on a slightly-educated whim, as it turned out just as I remembered it. A rich, warm, definitely-spicy-but-slightly-sweet sauce surrounding juicy chicken breast and luscious mangoes. The sauce kicks at the end, thanks to a pretty heavy spice blend, but the mango cools at just the right time, ultimately encouraging you to eat way too fast and start to overheat a bit. I have to say, though, eating a fulfilling dinner, finally restocking my fridge, and looking forward to nothing but Internet browsing and Anna Karenina for the night, I feel as though I almost salvaged this Friday.

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Mango Chicken

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice

2 1/2 cups water

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup roasted red and yellow peppers, chopped (or 1 raw bell pepper, chopped)

1 1/2 cups mango, fresh or frozen, chopped and divided

2 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

6 oz. can tomato paste

1 tbsp. sriracha

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup coconut milk

Salt & pepper, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, prepare brown rice by bringing about 2 1/2 cups water to a boil and adding 1 cup of rice (ratio depending on brand and style of rice; defer to package directions). Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer brown rice for about 35 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice is fluffy. Season with salt and pepper and let rest, covered.

In a large sauté pan, preferably a few inches deep, heat grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup of mango and stir to incorporate. Toss the spices over the vegetable mixture and cook for about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and sriracha to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and stir until blended. Using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor, blend the sauce until smooth and creamy. Return the sauce to the pan and drop the heat to medium-low. Add coconut milk and stir into the sauce.

As the sauce gently simmers, add the chicken and remaining cup of mango to the pan. Cook the chicken in the sauce until it is cooked through, being careful not to overcook, for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from heat.

To serve, pile some brown rice onto your plate. Top with chicken and mango in sauce. If you had some cilantro, that would pair nicely here. I served this with some roasted broccoli to get a bit more green with my dinner, which I’d recommend as it was absolutely delicious doused in spicy mango sauce.

After dinner, feel free to relax and dream of vacations passed, like maybe when you were in Charleston last weekend and everything was perfect. Maybe sun would solve all of our problems; maybe I should move back south.

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Brunching at beautiful Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, SC

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Just dreaming of life at 75 and sunny.* Indian food will have to suffice for now.

*I don’t know that old man.

Spicy Lime Shrimp with Mango Coconut Brown Rice

I don’t have a lot to say; my brain is tired; my commute was long. I came home from work (or, really, I got out of my car an hour and a half later and came inside), and I was starving. I bought a mango and some accompaniments  a few days ago in thoughts of preparing a summer rice bowl full of spicy grilled shrimp, and then the week passed and all the components rested comfortably in my vegetable drawer. I guess it seemed like too much chopping. But, without much else to go on besides cereal, and knowing those vegetables would soften unappealingly while I spent a (hopefully) fantastic weekend away, I dove in to the prep work. I may work fast in the kitchen, but this recipe is the definition of a 30-minute-meal. It seriously all comes together in the time it takes to simmer brown rice, which is nice because once the timer goes off I am suddenly very impatient to eat. I topped my plate with this steamy, spicy concoction with a cleaned kitchen at the outcome, thanks to some quick swipes of the counter and the clean-as-you-go method. This means I can sit on the couch now and recuperate when I should be packing. How else do 25-year-olds live? Oh wait…

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*Chop, chop, chop*

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Spicy Lime Shrimp with Mango Coconut Brown Rice

Serves 2

20 frozen shrimp, raw, peeled and deveined

Spicy Lime Marinade:

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Dash of cayenne

1/2 cup brown rice

3/4 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp. grapeseed oil, divided

1 mango, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

Salt & pepper, to taste

First, heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add coconut milk and water. Once boiling, add brown rice, lower heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30-35 minutes, until rice is tender and liquid is almost entirely absorbed.

To defrost the shrimp, add shrimp to a colander inside a large bowl. Fill the bowl with chilled water and let soak for 2-3 minutes. Empty the water and replace, and repeat the soaking process. Toss the shrimp in the colander under running water and set aside in a new clean bowl.

Mix the spicy lime marinade by shaking in a jar or whisking to combine. Pour the marinade over the shrimp and toss. Set aside for now (allowing to marinate for about 20 minutes).

Dice the mango and vegetables. In a sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion, season lightly with salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened. Remove vegetables from the pan and set aside.

In the previously used sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to the pan, leaving most of the marinade in the bowl. Cook shrimp until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

By this time, the rice should be done cooking. Add the sautéed vegetables and mango to the coconut rice and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Plate the coconut mango rice and top with shrimp.

Pour the remaining marinade into the sauté pan and simmer over medium heat until reduced and thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Pour marinade over plated shrimp and rice.

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Add Sriracha to serve, possibly with another squeeze of lime juice. A sprinkle of cilantro might be nice. Or maybe even a margarita on the side (not for you, Brian). Regardless, this was good. Creamy coconut milk, sweet mango, acidic lime and onion, and succulent and spicy shrimp are magic companions. Soon it will be summer and this meal will fit right in.