Saturday, January 16, 2010

Harlot's Sauce

In my opinion, food with really wonderful flavors is one of life’s small perks. And sometimes the small things are the best.

It was like a vacation day in Studio B today. I straightened a few things up around the house and a friend of mine came to visit. She’s never been here before so I gave her the tour of the kitchen project that is in process, plus I showed her around the house and each of my studios and we talked lots about different processes. By the time we finished the complete tour, it was time for lunch.
While she peeled shrimp, I cut up some veggies and boiled pasta. We made Harlot’s Sauce with shrimp with toasted French bread and it turned out to be quite good. We even made chocolate molten cake for dessert, then curled up on the couch and petted the puppies as we talked. What a treat that was! (The border collies didn't seem to mind!)

I called our lunch “Harlot’s Sauce” because I’m not sure what it was other than a combination of shrimp, pasta and veggies… Harlot’s Sauce is the title of a book written by an acquaintance of mine, who I am absolutely smitten with. Check it out here. It’s a memoir, and a friend of mine read it and he kept telling me that I needed to read this book. So finally I did. And I was transfixed by her story, part here in the US, and part in Greece. I laughed and cried with her and she became a real inspiration to me. There is a recipe in the back of the book for Harlot’s Sauce, or “Salsa Puttanesca.” To quote the book, it is “a tomato sauce invented by harlots in Naples, Italy, many years ago. The sauce had to be quick to fix – between clients (wink) – and economical. Nonetheless, those women made something delicious out of a limited choice of ingredients.” And isn't that what we are all trying to do these days? Make something delicious in spite of the limitations?

The recipe in the book looks like this: olive oil, an onion, 4 cloves of garlic, water, 2 anchovies and 8 roma tomatoes plus whatever herbs and veggies are in season. Lots of big flavor - Delicioso!

And here are the instructions for my lunch version:
Put water on to boil for pasta, have a good friend peel one pound of medium shrimp. Toss them in fajita seasoning.

Cut up one onion, half a red or orange bell pepper, two roma tomatoes, one small tender yellow squash, one small tender zucchini.

Sauté four cloves of garlic in extra virgin olive oil, when it is lightly toasted add the other veggies and sauté.

Throw half the box of seven grain angel hair pasta in the pot when it comes to a boil.

Add freshly grated nutmeg, cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.

When the veggies are done, remove them from the heat. When the pasta is perfectly al dente drain it and return it to the pot. Throw in the veggies and combine, careful not to bash up the pasta.

Turn up the heat and quickly sauté the shrimp, this doesn’t take long at all. And you want to have them slightly under-done when they leave the sauté pan because they will continue to cook as long as they are hot. And overcooked shrimp are… well… a complete waste of calories.

When the shrimp are finished, combine them with the pasta and veggies. I deglazed the pan with the only citrus I had handy, an orange. It would have been better with a lemon or lime, add the juice to the pasta and stir. I topped it with good freshly grated Parmesan and served it.

I thought this was pretty good, and I served it this way. But it needed something. So when supper came around and I was still hungry for more of the same, I added a few things that took it right over the top for me.

So here’s what I added: A small handful of chopped fresh cilantro. I added about a teaspoon of sriracha hot sauce (not for the faint of heart!) (to the whole pot, not just my serving!) and to my serving I added half a perfectly ripe avocado and some sea salt. Omygoodness! Now THAT… was GOOD!

I’ve really come to enjoy cooking for friends, but mostly I enjoy the process. I’m still a little timid about putting kick in food I serve other people, I don’t think everyone enjoys that the way I do. But even if I can’t make it as spicy as I like, that doesn’t mean it can’t be full of great flavors. And there is something so very satisfying about a meal of great food, even if you don’t eat much. The sensory experience makes it so much more satisfying. Good fresh ingredients make a big difference and I have developed a little attitude about fake food. The hydrogenated this and that is one example, anything that is trying to pretend to be butter, cream or sugar has been banished from my kitchen - silly impostors! (Trix are for kids!) These days I prefer to make my own scratch salad dressings, sauces and gravy instead of using a mix, condensed soup or ready-made stuff from a jar. I'm really becoming a food snob. And… I like my friends like I like my food, absolutely authentic and free of chemical additives! *chuckle*

Here's to authentic food and authentic friends,
May you always have all you need of both!
-Carmen Rose

PS... once more I was too busy living to document the experience. You try smelling that food and then see if you remember to get the camera... I was hungry!

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