Sunday, April 6, 2008

An Ongoing Love of Shrimp

It's been cloudy off and on, with cool breezes blowing. Perfect weather for hiking! My friend Jeff has been dragging me off to Mission Trails Park for hikes lasting hours. He calls them "Death Marches". I confess I haven't been doing a whole lot of physical activity recently, so these hikes have been a Godsend. I'm usually the active type. As in...."Take a 6 hour hike up a mountain? No problem." But lately I've been working on my website, trying to tweak it so that it will work better and look just a little better. Since I've been busy growing my website, I thought it might be a good idea to go in now and fix what needs fixing, before it became an even more overwhelming task. (That's why I haven't been posting that much of late. Sorry!)

Anyway, too much sitting and not enough moving has been the order of my days, so when Jeff asked me if I wanted to go on a hike with him, I knew I had to do it. This winter "muffin top" was beginning to feel like an alien, and I'm not going to stop enjoying my food. So the only option is to chug up a mountain. Or two. Grumbling and complaining all the way, of course, but smiling, too. And asking Jeff to please get the car and bring it so that I wouldn't have to walk back.

Now, I may walk like I've got a Rotweiller chasing me, but when it comes to hiking into canyons or up mountains, I've never been particularly speedy. I remember taking a hike in Bandolier National Monument with a group of people ranging in age from about 25 to 65. We spent hours hiking down into this canyon and exploring the caves, and then we hiked back out towards the end of the day. I was one of the younger people in the group, and I was the next to last one out, preceded by all those in their 60s. I was huffing and puffing my way to the top, and they were all grinning and drinking deeply from their canteens by the time I got to the parking lot.

The main difference between then and now is the food waiting for me when I got home. Back in those days, Bob did the cooking, and I never grew tired of it. Now I'm the one in the kitchen, trying to come up with variations on a theme. And recently that theme seems to be fish. Any and all kinds, with or without a shell - halibut, shrimp, scallops, tuna - anything from the sea. I think it might have been my friend Kathye's birthday party that started it. She had ordered a shrimp cocktail as one of the hors d'oevres, and when I tasted one of those giant shrimp......well, as they say, the rest is history. But a shrimp cocktail can only take you so far. After a while, I started casting around for something else to do with shrimp. Somehow I decided to cast my eyes towards Africa for inspiration.

In northern Algeria as well as Tunisia and Morocco, every village and family makes it's own charmoula - a marinade used mostly to flavor fish (though it can be used for other things as well). It's made primarily of oil, lemon juice and herbs and spices - garlic, cumin, coriander, etc. In other words, it is to north African cuisine, what Masala is to Indian food.

I found the recipe for this particular version of charmoula in the February issue of Gourmet. It was perfect, as I had all of the ingredients except the shrimp and shallots, and Whole Foods is a mere 10 minute walk from my house - on pavement. Flat pavement, in fact!

Charmoula:

1 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb), peeled, leaving tail fan attached, and deveined
3 large shallots, finely chopped (1 cup)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small leek (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh serrano chile (optional), seeded and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons mild honey
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Preparation:

Cook shrimp in a large pot of boiling water until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool.

Cook shallots in 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until very tender, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash leek and pat dry.

Add leek, garlic, and chile (if using) to shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add paprikas and turmeric and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice, honey, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 cup oil.

Toss shrimp with sauce in a glass or ceramic bowl and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours. Season with salt and serve in sauce. This will keep in the fridge for an extra day, especially if your shrimp is very fresh. You could serve this as is, with a side of salad or asparagus (another "must have" on my list these days). Or you could top a salad with this. In either case, you will have charmoula left over. I tossed mine into some rice along with a few frozen peas (and leftover asparagus, of course).

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15 comments:

anya said...

I'm that much into hiking and walking, too!! To my mind, it's the best alternative to wearing out gym sessions. Plus, it's such a fun!! :)

Peter M said...

Toni, I accept your offer...I'm on my way with the steaks..surf & turf in San Diego it is!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I often use preserved lemons in my charmoula, with lots of parsley, cumin, coriander, and olive oil.

Catherine Wilkinson said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I love the shrimps!
Yeah, I hike like I'm off to free Tibet...pissed off and deliberately forceful. I have to, or I'd be just a mess emotionally. If I don't...move...in some way, every day, everything seizes up!

Toni said...

Anya - I agree! I don't have a gym membership anymore. I got too bored walking for a half hour on the treadmill where the scenery never changes!

Peter - Cool! I've got the wine!

Lydia - I've seen recipes that call for preserved lemons. I didn't have any or I would have used them in a heartbeat!

Catherine - LOL! Let's free Tibet! Even when I'm not out there storming around the mountains, I at least do yoga every day. I'd be stiff as a board if I didn't!

Heather said...

Those shrimps look mighty tasty! Mighty tasty indeed. I wanna come to the party too!

Stella (Sweet Temptations) said...

Lovely! It's too bad I can't eat shrimp... How I wished I could taste your charmoula..

Kevin said...

Charmoula shrimp sound really tasty!

toni said...

Heather - C'mon over! I've got plenty for you any time.

Valentina - Try it on chicken or veggies in that case.

Kevin - Thanks!

glamah16 said...

Oh yum. I dont know why your posts havent been popping up in my reader.Ive missed a few!

katiez said...

I loved walking in the mountains in Andorra. I well remember, when we first started, being passed up by a 75 year old, after about 3 hours of climbing, and being told to 'pace myself'. I was 30 years younger than him....
Great looking shrimp!

Chris said...

I admit - I am the most unathletic girl every! Hiking? Ha! My idea of hiking is climbing the stairs in my house. Terrible - I know! I have got to get out more.

I love this recipe. You need to swing by the ATL and teach me how to devein! The thought wigs me out a bit. hee hee.

Toni said...

Coco - You're way ahead of me. I don't know how to use a reader!

Katie - I want to be hiking well into my 90s, actually - if for no other reason than to see the faces of those youngsters as I pass them on the trail!

Chris - I don't devein. I buy them deveined. Less of an "ick" factor!

Mimi said...

A friend just made me a walking stick, so I think I'll be able to do some serious hiking.

And then eat shrimp. This recipe sounds good to me!

Deborah said...

I am a total shrimp fan, but I had never heard of charmoula before. This sounds so delicious!!

Thanks for suggesting this leek recipe!