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!

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Pineapple Teriyaki Shrimp

This is my 52nd post for this blog. I didn’t realize the 50th was the 50th, and also missed noting the 51st, so here: I’m calling out my 52nd. My posting frequency has slowed some since the beginning, in part due to an exhausted schedule, in part due to more nights out on warm evenings. I have all of these things I wish to spotlight, and I keep pushing back recipes thinking they’ll be more fitting for another time. But I intend to keep this going, even if slowly, in expectation that with time I blog all I have to share. I am kind of curious if eventually I’ll run out of ideas, like maybe the 203rd post, and have to stop. Or does taste and experience change enough to keep a continuous fodder for this small, insignificant space? Maybe it’s more likely I run out of steam before I run out of ideas. Who’s to say.

I’m also very nearly approaching the time at which I can no longer say “From a Chicago Kitchen,” which makes me sad. I doubt I’ll change it; I’ll just take the route most Suburbanites take, who say they’re Chicagoans in a greater-Chicago perspective. I hope whatever kitchen I have next has good lighting.

Anyways, this recipe is a great one, I think, for the beginnings of summer. I probably prepared it a few weeks ago now, so I’d expect pineapples would be even more ripe and delicious. I admit I didn’t make my own Teriyaki sauce- I’ve never had a very comprehensive Asian pantry to make things from scratch on a whim- but I certainly didn’t just toss the shrimp with something out of a bottle. There were a few bottles involved! I also ran out of Sriracha (the most terrible of crimes), but I’m including it in the recipe because of course it should be included.

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Pineapple Teriyaki Shrimp

Serves 4

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pineapple, prepared and chopped into 1 inch. cubes (about half of the fruit needed)

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 cup brown rice + 2 1/4 cups water

1/2 + 1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce, divided

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp. Sriracha

1 tbsp. corn starch

1 tbsp. coconut oil

Dash red chili flake

Prepare the shrimp and toss with 1/2 cup pineapple cubes and 1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce. Allow to marinade for 15-20 minutes.

Cook the brown rice according to package directions, usually 1 cup of brown rice to 2 1/4 cups water, cooked for about 30 minutes. Fluff and set aside.

Using a blender, mix together about 1/2 cup of pineapple cubes, 1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, corn starch, and Sriracha. Blend until the pineapple is completely pureed into the mixture. Set aside.

In a large wok or non-stick skillet, melt coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the marinated shrimp (pineapple included), red bell pepper, and an additional 1 cup of chopped pineapple.  Cook the shrimp for about 3-4 minutes per side, until they are opaque. Once the shrimp is cooked and pineapple warm, pour the Teriyaki pineapple sauce over the shrimp. Stir frequently until the sauce coats the shrimp and thickens, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve rice and pineapple Teriyaki shrimp alongside each other. Be cautious with seasoning the rice- there is enough salt in the sauce without any additional salt added. Top with additional Sriracha as desired (you should always desire more Sriracha) and enjoy!

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is one of those meals- delicacies, rather- that I never enjoyed until moving to North Carolina. There were a lot of firsts upon entering the South as a formerly-Midwestern girl. I remember the first time I saw the Atlantic ocean, the weekend before moving, staying in a beach-front hotel in Wilmington. The expanse of sand and water was so much greater than what I’d previously known to be a “beach”- the shores of Lake Michigan and the dunes of Northwest Indiana. Not that there’s anything less valuable or beautiful lakeside, but there is something different about salt-water air. I remember that first summer absolutely gasping for air, drowning in the intense humidity, and realizing my hair was actually kind of curly once saturated upon stepping outside. I noticed how much more friendly everyone was, how much more welcoming. I still feel like the South is the most inclusive and comforting of places, a recognition that some may disagree with. But I made such wonderful friends, met such driven yet kind people, and truly relished my time living there. I left for the city life and my Midwest “home” for grad school, but while Chicago is a different kind of excitement and comfort, it doesn’t quite feel right anymore.

I don’t remember the first time I ate shrimp and grits, I think it may have been at a nice restaurant with my family, or maybe a divey yet upscale hole-in-the-wall joint in Chapel Hill; either way, it immediately made a jump to one of my top 10 meals. I used to believe I didn’t like seafood, shrimp occasionally included, but shrimp and grits is definitely an expansion upon its nominative parts. The grits are creamy, cheesy, and indulgent; the shrimp spicy and succulent, usually swimming in a bit of broth with aromatics. It’s comfort food at its finest, and it wasn’t long before I was making it at home.

This version is a bit more elaborate than my usual weeknight shrimp and grits fare. Not that it’s overly labor-intensive, more just that I actually bought all of the ingredients and components I wanted to make it my version of perfect. I more often just throw together some pantry staples, a varying mix of the components listed below. So it’s worth mentioning that this can be prepared more simply, but if you’d really like to blow yourself away, go for the whole shebang.

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Shrimp and Grits

Serves 2 (could easily be doubled for 4)

To prepare grits:

  • 1/2 cup grits (or corn meal)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup water, reserved
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese, a mix of cheddar and monterey jack
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

To prepare shrimp:

  • ~20 frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined, defrosted
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flake
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

1 cup arugula, to serve

To prepare the grits, heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring chicken stock and milk, whisked together, to a boil. While whisking, slowly add the grits to the sauce pan. Reduce the heat to low, and continue to whisk the grits into the liquid until somewhat bound, about 2-3 minutes. Cover the sauce pan and simmer over low heat, stirring/whisking regularly, about every 2 minutes. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the grits have softened. I used a fine corn meal, which cooks through in about 10 minutes. Depending on how coarse your corn meal, it may take longer. If needed, add up to 1 cup of water to thin the consistency as it cooks. I added about a 1/2 cup of water during cooking. Once the grits are finished, add the cheese, butter, and spices/seasonings and whisk to combine. Cover and let rest, removed from the heat.

To prepare the shrimp, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter, and, once melted, the minced shallot. Heat the shallots until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and continue to sauté an additional 2-3 minutes, until the pepper has softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add the shrimp to the pan, keeping evenly spaced with good contact to the bottom of the pan. Cook the first side for about 1 minute, then flip. Cook the shrimp for an additional minute, then deglaze the pan with the juice of 1 lemon and about 1/2 cup of chicken stock. The liquid should bubble violently and begin to reduce. Stir the shrimp mixture and cook until the liquid has reduced by about half, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and set aside.

To serve, scoop the warm grits onto a plate or shallow bowl. Top the grits with about a 1/2 cup of arugula, which will wilt slightly on contact. Add the shrimp, peppers, and aromatics to the grits, and pour some of the pan sauce over the top.

The grits will firm slightly on the outside, but, when attacked with a spoon, will yield that smooth, creamy interior. Devour at will.

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Show Brian this picture and tell me his mouth won’t start watering. You should probably double the recipe.

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.