This past weekend, I had a farewell party for friends who were moving across the country. Although I tried to make things perfect, I forgot to buy lemons and limes to garnish pre-dinner drinks and to provide an acidic balance to my Indian dinner. However, when a guest asked for a lemon wedge, I remembered that I had both fruits in the freezer. A quick 20-second turn in the microwave, and the fruit cut easily and tasted as flavorful as if fresh.
Lemons and limes are readily available, but they can be pricey off-season. Besides thrift and convenience, the advantage of frozen fruit is that it still retains moisture and nutritional benefits. Citrus packs a solid vitamin C punch, and the juice is often used in home remedies. I freeze the fruit whole (grating the rinds to add as aromatic seasonings) and as cut wedges (adding them to cold and hot drinks). I liberally use lime juice in my favorite summer dish, Lime Rice, but I have lately taken to substituting cauliflower to make a less starchy version.
Lime “Rice” (with cauliflower)
Cauliflower Rice – 2 cups
Oil – 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Lentils (red or green) – ½ tbsp
Whole, dried red chili – 2-3
Asafetida powder – ¼ tsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Salt – to taste
Lime –1, juice
Curry leaves – 2-3 stalks
Cashew nuts or peanuts – ½ cup, dry roasted
- Heat the oil in a wok or pan.
- Add the mustard seeds to the hot oil.
- As soon as mustard seeds start to pop, add the cumin seeds and lentils.
- Once the cumin seeds start to sizzle, add the chilies, asafetida powder and turmeric powder.
- Add the curry leaves and stir for a few seconds.
- Add the cauliflower “rice” to the pan. Lower the flame and sprinkle a tablespoon of salted water. Cover and let the cauliflower cook in the steam, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the stove.
- Add lime juice and salt, adjusting their balance according to your taste.
- Garnish with cashew nuts or peanuts.
This has been a week of celebrations, from Cinco de Mayo and ending this weekend on what is known as two-minute sporting spectacle, the Kentucky Derby. Both celebrations feature great food as well as a signature cocktail. Margarita’s tequila and triple sec and mint julep’s bourbon base combine with simple syrup to make easy-to-down cocktails. Most people are familiar with making (and drinking!) margaritas, but the bourbon-based mint julep is just as easy.
The mint julep is associated with the American South, where a whiskey/bourbon and mint combination that is savored during the long hot months makes this cocktail a perennial favorite. At the Kentucky Derby, the drink is served in a special silver Julep cup. Using a metal container in the heat is practical as the frosted cup insulates the cocktail. A mint julep is easy to make: Use the best bourbon that you have available, fresh mint leaves for both aroma and aromatics, and simple syrup.
Bourbon Whiskey – 2 oz
Simple Syrup (see below) – ½ –1 oz
Mint Sprigs – 5-6
Crushed ice – enough to fill the serving Julep glass
- Mix 4 tsp of sugar and 4 tsp of water. Bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat. Add 3-4 mint leaves. Keep aside until the simple syrup is cool.
- When ready to serve, add the remaining mint leaves to the serving cup. Crush the leaves lightly (muddle) with a wooden spoon.
- Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the whiskey and simple syrup.
- Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Cheers to the winner!
Note: If you don’t own a metal cup or silver julep, chill a standard highball glass.
Short on time but long on previously-frozen shrimp, I needed two or three easy sauces in order to vary a week’s worth of meals. The simplest that I came up with was the American-style shrimp scampi. In America, scampi refers to a type of dish, (e.g. shrimp scampi), in which prawns are cooked with white wine and served over pasta. Scampi, however, is actually a small variety of lobster that is also called Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn, and lastly by its Italian name, scampi. A fresh langoustine needs just a hint of butter to draw out its sweetness.
The light classic wine and stock combination, which conveniently uses the shells to make shrimp stock, forgives one for using frozen shrimp.
Shrimp with shells – ¾ lb
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Shallot – 1, chopped
Garlic cloves – 3-4, chopped
Lemon – 1, juice
Thyme – 2 sprigs
Bay leaf – 1
White wine – ½ cup
Stock – ½ cup
Salt and pepper – seasoning
- Peel and devein shrimp. Keep the shells.
- To make a shrimp stock: Boil 2 cups of water. Add the shells and bay leaf. Cook on simmer for 15 minutes. When cool, strain the liquid and reserve.
- Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a medium pan. When oil is hot, lay the shrimp out in a single layer in the pan.
- After about two minutes or when shrimp turns pink, turn the shrimp over. Repeat on the other side. Remove the shrimp and keep aside.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add the chopped shallot and cook until softened.
- Add garlic. Sauté for a minute or until garlic turns lightly brown.
- Add the reserved stock and wine to the pan.
- Add thyme. Cook for 10 minutes on low, until the liquid has reduced in volume by about half.
- Add lemon juice.
- Add shrimp and cook until heated through.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour over cooked pasta or spiralized zucchini. Serve immediately.
Note, two mild sauce combinations that also accentuate the briny flavor of shrimp are:
Classic White Wine Sauce: shallots, garlic, and cream.
Coconut Sauce: shallots, garlic, ginger, green chili, and unsweetened coconut milk.