Ode to My Girls (Beach Time Shrimp)

I’m really lucky.

Every year I get to go to Florida with all of my best girl friends from college for a weekend of tanning, crazy dancing, and general gluttany.

I know how special this is and how few people get to see their close friends with this kind of regularity. It’s especially valuable time to me since I haven’t lived in the same city as any of them in the over four years since college (mental math, yes I’m getting old).

The literal cherry on top is that all of these girls appreciate great food right along with me and we get the run of a huge kitchen + patio grill to come up with “family” dinners every night. And doesn’t food taste the best after a day in the sun and water, when you’ve washed the sand out of your hair, and you’re all cleaned up, sipping a cocktail in a sundress as the sun goes down? Hint of lime chips certainly do.

This recipe is a favorite summertime staple from our hosts. The recipe uses frozen bags of shrimp so it’s easy to have it ready quickly for a big group (another plus because our group is BIG and hungry). It also cooks in the oven (quickly) so you can save your grill for appetizers (kielbasa) or slabs of fish (I told you our group gets hungry). Finally, I’ve recreated this dish at home and G really liked it so you have proof that this tastes just as good when you’re not at the beach with your girl friends. Well, maybe almost as good.

Ashley Family Garlic Pepper Shrimp

There are no finished pictures because, well, they didn’t last that long. These are peel and eat shrimp so you serve them with the shells still on and with plenty of white, carby bread to soak up the drool-worthy juices.


Bag of frozen shrimp with the shells/tails still on (defrosted)
Garlic (canned)
Worcester sauce
Lots of cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay your shrimp out on the baking sheet in one layer. Sprinkle the canned garlic generously over the shrimp.

(Note: I know I said never to use canned garlic. Without exception. But unless you’re willing to chop up all of this garlic yourself, I think vacays call for a little relaxation from the rules, don’t you?)

Distribute thick pats of butter over the shrimp as shown in the above picture. Pour worcester sauce generously over the shrimp (this plus the butter and shrimp juices will make the sauce you want to sop up later). Generously coat the shrimp in cracked black pepper.

So far I’ve used the word “generously” three times in these directions. This is purposeful. Be generous. Especially with the pepper.

Bake until shrimp is pink and opaque (about 7-10 minutes).

Serve with side salad, red wine, and best friends.

Curry Sweet Potato Fries

When I see curry fries on the menu, I order them. I hope you do the same.

The best are from Marvin in DC – don’t be fooled by their website. That place is way more “lounge” than “restaurant,” but they sure pump out some crazy good curry fries. 15 Romolo in North Beach takes second place for my favorite curry fries, and was the inspiration for this recipe.

To avoid deep fried white potatoes, and the cocktails I would surely need to compliment them, I experimented with the typical sweet potato oven fries, Indian spices, and a glorious amount of olive oil. These would be great as a side snack with a spicy black bean burger at your summer bbq, or you can serve them on their own with fun, creamy dipping sauces.

Curry Sweet Potato Fries

1 large sweet potato
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about 8 tbs.)
2 heaping teaspoons Curry Power
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
Generous shake of Garlic Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

I’m always hesitant to provide amounts for spices in my recipes since it really IS all about taste preference, but suffice to say, you probably can NOT over season these. Don’t go light on the curry powder – you will regret it. I used black pepper for my spice, but I think a few pinches of garam masala would go a long way too.

Cut up your sweet potato into fry form. I saw a fantastic “la technique” episode with Bourdain the other day where his sou chef made homemade french fries and was impressed at how he cut them so precisely. I think I came pretty close to replicating this time.

Heat your oil in a shallow pan on medium high heat for 1 minute. Add all curry powder and heat until fragrant (another two minutes). Toss fries with heated curry oil and all remaining spices. Bake at 375 degrees until crispy (about 30 minutes).

These are iphone photos. My camera is MIA. Not a good excuse, but at least somewhat of a reason why all blogging has ceased. I think they came out pretty gorgeous anyway!

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

I loved reading your guesses for which were the lies and which were the truths. The best is that my mom didn’t know the answer either, but that’s because I’m so tricky!

The answer is: #6. My favorite meal I’ve ever had was ham and cheese on a roll.

Food Network has this new show, “The best thing I ever ate” that follows the channel’s stars around the world to see all their favorite meals. The commercials specify it’s not what you eat every day, it’s not the most outrageous thing you ever ate, it is, by the stars own definition of “best,” the best thing you ever ate.

That’s what got me thinking. When traveling in Asturias, in Northern Spain, I hiked up a snowy mountain with my professor and class in the drizzling, cold rain – up to a farmhouse where my professor’s friend waited with prosciutto cured from the farm’s pigs, chunky, spreadable blue cheese made on site with milk from its cows, and crunchy yet soft baguettes. This simple sandwich is without a doubt, “the best thing I ever ate.”

Instead of passing on the award, I’d love to hear your stories of the best thing you ever ate. If you want to email pictures, I’ll run it as a guest post (lceatslentils@gmail.com) or just leave your story in the comments.

I’ll leave you with my favorite thing I’m eating right now. Marinara pizza topped with fat, briny capers and fresh, crunchy arugula. I had it for the first time at Tony’s, my go-to SF pizza spot. Tony’s Web site claims he’s won numerous awards for his sauce, and I believe it. It’s incredibly authentic and sweet without being too sweet. Combine that with cooked capers and peppery arugula and you’ve got a winning combination.

Make it yourself with TJ’s whole wheat dough, Muir Glenn organic tomato sauce, canned capers, and local arugula, which should just be appearing in your farmer’s market. Let your pizza broil on high for a minute or two at the end to get that wood-fired look. Top with arugula.

So let’s hear it! What’s the best thing you ever ate?

Back from Hiatus aka Springtime Pasta Primavera

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. How long? I forgot my password to WordPress long. True story. I had to try it three times; good thing WordPress doesn’t lock you out.

Somehow, I have no problem remembering how to log into CBS Sportsline to check my doomed bracket. How doomed? Better than the girl in my office who went to Gonzaga, better than the President’s, but still Lousiville and Kansas in the final four doomed. Wow, that Louisville pick was harder to admit than I expected.

But, as I’m an eternal optimist, let’s look on the bright side!

Kenzie, from A Healthy Purpose, (and also from my hometown), gave me the Creative Writer award! Thank you, Kenzie! You reminded me why I spend time away from my kindle, HBO, the gym, happy hour, and my boyfriend (in no particular order) to blog. Because it’s creative. And fun spending time with you all. (Awards at the end. I’d love to say “After the jump” but let’s face it, my blog structure isn’t quite up to that yet.)

Also on the bright side, I have a springtime favorite of a recipe to share with you. I’ve made this same recipe with dozens of variations so apologies if the instructions are less than exact. It looks intimidating when you see all the ingredients, but really, it’s very simple on the seasoning (garlic + lemon) and can be made with anything that looks good at your farmer’s market this spring. Just don’t leave out the arugula and the cherry tomatoes – they make it.

Springtime Pasta Primavera

Serves 2 very hungry people


1/2 box whole wheat linguine
Dried oregano
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 cloves garlic
White wine (optional)
Veggie broth (can use Chicken for a sweeter flavor)
1 large juicy lemon
2 small broccoli crowns, cut into bite sized florets
1/4 red pepper, julienned
1/4 green pepper, julienned
1/4 onion, sliced into strips
2 small zucchini
1 generous handful arugula
About 20 small cherry or grape tomatoes

Set a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Heat about 1 tbs. olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the garlic cloves and cook until golden and starting to brown. Pour in white wine until there is about an inch liquid in the pan. If not using, use veggie broth. Add a good amount of dried oregano and let simmer on low-medium heat so the alcohol can burn off. As it reduces, add the veggie broth to keep the sauce at about 1-2 inches deep, continue simmering until ingredients are ready.

Meanwhile, arrange all your sliced veggies on a baking tray, excluding the zucchini (they cook faster). Bake at 350 degrees until broccoli are starting to become tender but still slightly crisp and raw (about 7-10 minutes). Your sauce should just be coming together at this point.

Drop your pasta in the boiling water. Cook according to package instructions. Strain, reserving 1/4 cup starchy cooking liquid.

While pasta is cooking, add the zucchini to your baking sheet and broil on high until the broccoli are nicely crisped and all veggies are tender (about 5-7 minutes).

While veggies are crisping, squeeze half a lemon into your sauce, and add another tbs of olive oil. Throw the cherry tomatoes into the sauce so they’ll warm up and be nice and juicy when you bite into them.

When pasta is done, mix pasta, reserved liquid, and arugula right in your saucepan. Use tongs to coat pasta evenly. Your arugula will start to wilt. Remove saucepan from heat. Add veggies and mix using tongs. Squeeze the other lemon half over the pasta; season with salt and pepper.

Phew, I forgot all the moving parts to that dish! But it comes together very quickly – the longest time is spent chopping and you can do that ahead of time.

For the Creative Writer award, you have to name seven things about yourself, six untrue. Assuming I have any readers other than my mom left after my hiatus, I invite you to guess which one is true.

1. I was on my high school junior varsity basketball team.
2. I had my first beer when I was 15.
3. I’ve always wanted to visit Asia.
4. I hated tofu as a child.
5. I had an enviable attendance record in college.
6. My favorite meal I’ve ever had was ham and cheese on a roll.
7. My college freshman year roommate was goth.

Thanks for reading such a lengthy post. It feels great to be back.

St. Patrick’s Day Dip

This past weekend, we were lucky enough to take advantage of hang out with our friends. The day started off right with mimosas, french toast, and college basketball, and ended even better with homemade dip, wine, and hot tubbing.

Beyond the hot tub, our friends also have the most comfortable couch of all time – and great taste in food, which led them to share this tasty dip with us.

Served over salty triscuts, the dip was delightfully creamy and light, and the cilantro lent a fresh, bright smell. The edamame adds protein to the avocado’s healthy fat. And, potentially my favorite part, if you make it right, it will come out almost neon green. Get ready for St. Patty’s!

St. Patty’s Dip

From Whole Foods’ Edamame Guacamole

1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/3 bunch cilantro (washed thoroughly)
1/4 white onion, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 limes
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Cracked Salt + Pepper

Put edamame, avocado, cilantro, onion, lime juice, and salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. Add enough water to make a creamy consistency and pulse again. Season more if needed.

Risotto Soup

I’m calling this Risotto Soup because I can’t tell if it’s risotto or soup; I just know it’s delicious.

The original recipe from Veganomicon is for wild rice and mushroom soup. Lots of stirring and simmering, minus too much broth and adding more fixins’ made for more of a risotto consistency. We kept the mushroom-y flavor of the original and added some more complex flavor with leeks and kale.

Mushroom and Kale Risotto Soup

Adapted from Veganomicon’s Porcini-Wild Rice Soup

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 medium onion (chopped)
1/2 large leek, chopped (white part only)
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large box Pacific Organic vegetable stock
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 sticks celery, diced
5 stalks fresh dinosaur curly kale
parsley (for garnish)
Fresh thyme
Generous salt
Cracked black pepper

Place the porcinis in a bowl. Measure 2 cups of boiling water and pour over the porcinis. Cover with a plate and set aside.

Heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks and saute for about 3 minutes. Stir in the spices and cook for two more minutes.

Throw in the celery and carrots and cook until onion and leeks are turning translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes. In the meantime, remove the porcinis from the broth. Slice them thinly and and add to the stockpot along with the porcini broth. Let the mixture cook for a few more minutes.

Add the rice and about 3/4 of the box of stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Break up the kale into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pot. Continue to simmer for the next 25 minutes, adding the rest of the broth as the rice soaks it up and stirring every five minutes or so. Garnish with fresh parsley. You could also grate some pecorino on top to make it even more like risotto.

Tiger Bok Choy

I just finished reading The Kind Diet, and ever since I’ve been craving bok choy. Like, can not stop thinking about eating bok choy.

Which is so weird because I’ve never even made bok choy or eaten it outside of the random pieces thrown into my Chinese take-out. Also, it’s not like Alicia Silverstone is especially extolling the virtues of bok choy. But her book is pretty heavy on the Asian influences, which must be where this all started.

This past weekend marked the annual San Francisco Chinese New Year parade, apparently the biggest celebration outside of China. Unfortunately, it conflicted with an even bigger event – watching Syracuse beat Nova to take on the number one ranking for the first time since 1990. But at least I made boy choy, so I like to think I celebrated in my own way.

This is simple food. A fresh vegetable, chopped garlic, olive oil, finished with salt and pepper. I wanted to taste the basic flavor of a just-cooked tender head of bok choy. Somehow, it was mind blowing.

No recipe needed for this, friends. Just go at it Mark Bittman-style. Sautee garlic in olive oil, throw in the bok choy, cracked pepper and salt to taste. Cook until just tender. Welcome to the Year of the Tiger.

Roasted Veggie Couscous

I’ve been a bad blogger lately. Not enough commenting on other people’s excellent recipes, and not enough sharing of my own recipes! I’ve got some rainy day posts stored away that I promise I’ll get to soon, and some intended updates to the site pages. Since becoming employed, I’ve noticed it’s not as easy to spend all your free hours on something you don’t get paid for … hah.

The big, brown, wrinkly lumps in the picture are whole olives with the pit still in. Just throw them on top of the casserole before you put it in the oven, and pop them in your mouth afterwards for a salty burst of taste that will literally melt on your tongue.

This recipe is a knock-off of shrimpies casserole. It’s basically shrimpies casserole, updated and veganized. G was craving shrimp and I was craving a great veggie couscous mix I’ve been enjoying at Chez Carla for lunch so we made another half and half compromise.

Roasted Veggie Couscous

Extra-virgin olive oil
Veggie broth (optional)
5 shakes hot red-pepper flakes
4 shakes ground cinnamon
2 shakes ground allspice
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchinis, chopped into rounds, then quartered
1 very large carrot, cut into rounds, then halved
3-4 small stalks celery, diced
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup dry couscous

Heat the oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it’s starting to get color, then add the onions and carrots. Cook for another 3 minutes, then add the spices. Continue cooking until carrots begin to soften and onions are starting to turn more translucent (another 3-4 more minutes). Add the zucchini and celery and cook for three minutes more.

(Tip: If you find you need to continually add more oil while cooking your veggies, brown for a minute in oil, then just add small amounts of veggie broth instead of oil throughout the cooking process. Saves on fat and calories, and you shouldn’t notice a difference. This is especially effective for people whose non-stick pans may not be up to par.)

Gorgeous. Next, pour in your canned tomatoes with the juices and mix it all up. At this time, go ahead and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Let the mixture simmer on the stove for 15-20 minutes as it thickens, stirring occasionally as you remember. I will cover the pan if it looks like it’s getting too dry. You want the juices for soaking into the couscous after. Pour into a glass baking dish.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until veggies are nice and soft. Right before serving, boil 1/2 cup water. When the water is boiling, take off heat, stir in your couscous, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork before mixing with your veggies. Feast! But don’t eat it all – it tastes even better the next day.

Country Club Crab Cakes

Back in Maryland, crab cakes are serious business. They can’t be too mealy, too full of filler, too saucy, too spicy, etc. There’s a mystical combination of all the factors that can come together to make a deliciously crispy, lemony, chock full of crab, crab cake.

Once a week, my parent’s country club does “half price crab cakes” and the place is packed. They make the best crab cakes we’ve ever had. One time, my mom thought to ask for the secret recipe, and surprisingly, the chef whips out a napkin and writes it down for her. She followed the recipe at home and they turned out perfect – exactly like the club makes them.

Most important ingredient.

Because California’s crab season is the opposite of Maryland’s (winter instead of summer) Valentine’s weekend was a great time to try out this Maryland recipe with California dungeness crab. Instead of going with the pound of canned crab, we grabbed 1/2 pound of fresh lump dungeness crab meat and halved this recipe. The result was traditional Maryland crab cake taste with California fresh dungeness flavor.

Country Club Crab Cakes

Makes: Approximately 6 crab cakes

1/2 Cup PANKO Japanese Bread Crumbs
1 lb Jumbo Lump Crab Meat

For sauce (Note, this will make more sauce than you need. Follow instructions for how much to use.):
1 cup mayo (we used veganaise)
1 egg
2 oz dijon mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce (we used Annie’s vegan)
1 1/2 T Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. chopped fresh garlic
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp cracked black pepper

For garnish:
Cocktail sauce
Arugula (washed thoroughly)
Cracked pepper, salt

Mix all sauce ingredients well. You will use 6 oz of the sauce per 1 lb of crabmeat. If you’re wondering how much an oz. looks like, a shot glass is 2 oz.

GENTLY fold the sauce and 1/2 C of breadcrumbs into the crab meat; do not break up the lumps.

Let mixture sit for 10 min for breadcrumbs to absorb. Meanwhile, butter a baking sheet. Shape the mixture into crab cakes with your hands and place on the baking sheet. At this point, you can chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

Preheat oven to 425. Bake for 20 min or until golden brown and slightly crisped on top.

To serve, place your crab cake on a bed of arugula seasoned with lemon juice and cracked salt and pepper. Top with cocktail sauce. Open a bottle of fantastic wine (champagne would make a good choice too).

Toast to a happy Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year!

A Sunny Day in Alcatraz

Funny. We live in DC for 3 1/2 years and it barely snows more than 2 inches at a time. The first winter we’re away, and DC turns into Syracuse overnight.

Meanwhile, G and I were lucky enough to have a DC native in town. We were worried it might rain on our parade, but apparently all the moisture in the air was otherwise engaged.

View from our balcony ... the same day.

We took advantage and visited Alcatraz, a place G has always wanted to go and I have never wanted to go. I thought it would be scary, boring, and crowded. It’s actually one of the more beautiful places we’ve visited since we came to San Fran. The audio tour (included in the cost of the ferry) was really fun to follow, not boring at all.

Looking out over the prison recreation yard. From the top step, the prisoners could look out at the amazing views and see everything they were missing.

I never thought of Alcatraz this way, but it’s actually a sanctuary for birds and hosts amazing plants nurtured on the island from its various inhabitants. Check out the size of this calla lily!

I was most struck by how close the island (and prison) is to the city. On New Year’s Eve, if the wind was blowing a certain way, the prisoners could hear the sounds of the yacht club across the bay – women laughing, glasses clinking. Crazy.

View of the city.

“If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison; if you disobey the rules of the prison, they send you to Alcatraz.”

Hm, doesn’t sound half bad.