Pea-wrapped Grilled Shrimp

Pea-wrapped Grilled Shrimp

If you’re staring longingly at your half-grown peas, wishing you could be enjoying that fresh spring taste right now, then I’ve got a great recipe for you!

You might not know it, but the entire pea plant — shoots, leaves, flowers and pods — is edible, and all of it taste like peas.  I often grab a random pea leaf to munch on when I’m strolling in the garden.  They also stand up to grilling, and the flavor is a great match with freshly grilled shrimp.  Here’s how you do it:

  • Turn the grill on high.
  • Peel and clean your shrimp, then sprinkle with salt, lemon, and any other seasonings you might have (I didn’t use dill, but it would probably be fantastic).
  • Remove the seeds from a sweet pepper and chop it into skewerable squares.
  • Head over to your pea plants and pick a leaf or two off each plant.  The bigger and older, the better.  You’ll need one leaf for each shrimp.
  • Grab one shrimp, wrap it in a leaf, skewer it, then stick on a piece of sweet pepper.  Repeat until done.
  • Add a bit of oil to protect while cooking.  I gave the skewers a quick spritz of cooking spray; alternately you could toss or brush with oil.
  • Throw ’em on the grill!  With  high heat, they need just a few minutes on each side.
  • Enjoy!

Pea-wrapped Shrimp

The pea leaves help to protect the shrimp from drying out in the high heat of the grill, and they provide a nice, subtle hint of pea flavor that goes well with the light sweetness of the shrimp.  We enjoyed ours with some other springtime favorites: grilled asparagus and sweet Walla Walla onions.  Add some simply dressed lemon-parsley noodles and a glass of wine and you’ve got a great spring meal!

“Good Job”

A friendly tip to all the restaurant workers out there: do not congratulate me on my ability to eat your restaurant’s food.

This is a rare occurrence, thankfully, but it’s still a pet peeve of mine.  I’m a fast and thorough eater, and once in a while a waiter while make some “clever” off-handed comment about how I cleaned the plate.  “Good job”, or “you must have enjoyed that” or something similar.

My reaction to these kinds of comments is not to flush with pride; I am not a four-year-old beaming at his parents’ attention.  No, I’m an adult who is now embarrassed by your comment.  Yes, literally embarrassed to have enjoyed your restaurant’s food.  Should I have eaten less?  Left a token half-potato for the kitchen staff to marvel at?

Do your customers usually leave their plates half full?

Hopping’ John

I came up with a great Hoppin’ John recipe today. Very easy to prepare and quite tasty.

  • Quick-soak 1.5 cups of black-eyed peas: put ’em in a pot with water, bring to a boil, then take off the heat and let sit for a few hours.
  • Later, put the following in a dutch oven:
    • 2 smoked pork hocks
    • 1 cup brown rice
    • 2 bottles of beer
    • the black-eyed peas
    • 1 tbsp dried thyme (less if powdered)
    • 2 tsp salt
  • Bake in an oven at 300 degree for four hours. Stir once or twice while cooking
  • Add more salt if needed. Serve with hot sauce, Jufran’s Banana Ketchup, or anything else you find tasty.

As usual with my cooking, all amounts are approximate. Adjust things as necessary.

Best food review ever

Kate and I had a lovely dinner out at the Verve Wine Bar last Thursday.  We had a flight of dessert wines to cap the evening which included a 1971 Pedro Ximenez Madeira.  It’s pretty thick and sweet, and my response:

“It’s like drinking a carebear!”

The waiter was only slightly amused.  We’d had a lot to drink.  🙂

Molecular Gastronomy

The descriptions and photos of this dinner just blew my mind [via boingboing]:

Kate and I had an upscale dinner last weekend where one dish featured “rhubarb caviar”.  It wasn’t actual caviar, but liquid-filled blobs of rhubarb jelly.  We were curious as to how it was made, and the above report provided a link to the answer:

Eating, Regressed

Well, apparently I gloated too soon.

A few months ago a (different) set of parents in our parents group talked about how their child was vomiting, and my question to them was, “how do you tell the difference between vomit and spit-up?” Well, now I know: if it’s green and stinks and keeps going and going, flowing out onto the floor of the Safeway produce department, then it’s vomit.

That was 2 hours ago, and Ruby had another much smaller spell after we got home. Now she’s lethargic and a little whiny, but no new emissions. Kate is putting her to bed and hopefully she’ll wake up feeling better.

On the bright side, she’s way more cuddly when she’s not feeling well.

Eating, Advanced

One of the parents in our parents’ group mentioned that his child won’t eat freshly prepared squash. He’s been eating jarred baby food and the flavor in the freshly prepared stuff is too strong.

greens.jpgNot so with our precious Ruby! The only processed food she eats is Cheerios. Everything else is freshly prepared by ours truly. Her menu board is now full of all the things she’s eaten, and I feel like there’s now enough stuff on there that I can get a bit adventurous.

For example, last night we introduced Ruby to collard greens. But not just collard greens, no! Instead, I prepared an Indian-style curried green puree with real spices like mustard, coriander, fennel, ginger, and garlic. She loved it, of course!

Ruby is starting to eat more and more of the same foods as Kate and I. A few nights ago I made pozole (mexican soup with pork and hominy) and we just scooped the pork and corn out, ground it up in our little baby food grinder, and that was Ruby’s dinner. Last night it was baked chicken (with a vaguely tandoorish marinade) and curried greens. Sadly, I think sausage and anchovy pizza is still a few months away…

Table Food Day 4

The night of Ruby’s first applesauce was a nightmare.  She went to sleep around 8:30pm but awoke, crying, at 9:30pm.  She continued wailing for an hour until finally settling down and going back to sleep.  Kate’s back has been bothering her so I’ve been on bounce duty for the past few weeks.  Anyway, from the way Ruby’s legs were kicking around we thought maybe the applesauce had given her some kind of cramps.  However, we’ve now given her apples for four days in a row without a repeat of the first episode, so we’ll just chalk it up to coincidence.

Ruby hasn’t quite got the hang of unbottled food yet.  If she’s not really hungry, she’ll ignore the food.  When she’s interested, she’s very… lengual?  tongue-oriented?  licky?  …she prefers to lick food off the spoon.  If you catch her with her mouth open and get a large amount in, she’s just extrude it down her chin.  She’s not eating much; maybe two tablespoons today, of which half ended up elsewhere than inside her belly.  In any event, she’s not averse to this new experience and I’m looking forward to the next food.  Bananas, maybe?

Update: Kate fed Ruby her first bananas for dinner tonight.  Ruby seemed to enjoy them more than the apples.  Still messy, but with less extruding all around. 

Ruby’s First Table Food

food1.jpgWe gave Ruby her first table food tonight: tsugaru apples, picked fresh from our garden from a tree I planted three years ago.  The apple was diced, steamed, mashed, thinned with breastmilk, and then promptly smeared all over Ruby’s chin.  Overall she seemed to enjoy her applesauce, even if she did seem a bit confused by the whole endeavor.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time — probably more than any other milestone in Ruby’s life.  Today is the start of a special relationship between the two of us as I take her on a wonderful culinary journey.  I just hope her appetite can match my enthusiasm.

Like any parent I want to provide the best for my child.  That means we’ll be providing her with whole foods, home cooked, maybe organic.  That’s a little hypocritical, though, since my own diet often leaves a lot to be desired (pizza for dinner tonight!).  I’m hoping Ruby will provide a little inspiration, or at least a little regulation, and that my own diet will improve to match what I expect hers to be.

More pictures and a movie over at Ruby’s Blog.

Only So Much You Can Do

Last weekend we went to a reunion of our childbirth class.  There were eight couples there, and we all told the stories of our babies’ births.

About halfway through, we got to a couple who had needed to have a caesarean birth.  The mother was in tears — she was a doula and a childbirth advocate, and she had really, really wanted to experience natural birth firsthand, and listening to the other birth stories had been very difficult.  In her words: “I never even got to feel a contraction”.  Despite that couple’s best efforts, their medical situation ruled out vaginal birth.

I think one of the important lessons of parenting, which this woman had to learn the hard way (and before her child was even born), is that there’s only so much we can do for our children.  We need to accept that we are physically incapable of providing the absolute best, 100% of the time.  We’ll get pretty close, but we’re not perfect people and we’re certainly not perfect parents.  Our skills are finite. Sometimes, we just need to step back and let things happen outside of our control.

I experienced this a few months ago with Ruby.  Late one day, abdominal cramps brought on her worst crying spell ever.  She screamed for about an hour.  I held her and bounced her and changed her and did everything in my power to soothe her, but nothing would work.  In the end, she had calmed down enough to sniffle, sob, and quietly moan while I held her.  I felt powerless — especially at the end, when she was quieter, when I could see the difficult journey she’d just gone through.  I came to realize that despite everything we would like to do for her, Ruby will have to take the lead in battling her own demons.

That brings us to last night, and my final example of the physical limitations of parenting.  Kate’s milk supply has been slowly decreasing, and we’ve been using milk from our freezer cache to make up the difference.  We’ve tried many things to boost Kate’s production.  As the freezer supply has dwindled, we’ve become increasingly aware that supplementing with formula might be the only answer.

We’re now down to about a half-dozen meals in the freezer, and we wanted to try formula before it became an emergency, so last night Kate gave Ruby her first formula bottle.  (Ruby will continue to get the vast majority of her food from Kate; we’re only short about two bottles per week.)

Giving Ruby that bottle of formula made Kate very sad.  She wants to provide Ruby with the superior nutrition of breastmilk.  She has struggled through incredible pain, anxiety, and frustration to provide her milk for Ruby.  In the end, though, she had to accept that there was nothing else she could physically do.  It would have been in Ruby’s best interests to drink nothing but breast milk for as long as possible, but her caloric needs won out over our ideals.  We just need to accept our physical limitations and move on.

(For what it’s worth, Ruby sucked down the formula with her usual gusto and didn’t seem to notice the difference.)