Sister Cherry spent many, many hours perched behind her battle-scarred desk, frosted pink lips pursed, glossy chestnut beehive sprayed into a vertical cone that a tornado would fail to ruffle, ankles prissily crossed, brow furrowed. She would nod emphatically now and then; each nod was a prize. Sister Cherry seemed to relish nothing more than watching her lectures make inroads into the sturm-und-drang-clogged byways of her pupils’ teenage brains.
Sister Cherry was my favorite English teacher in high school, and I wasn’t alone. Even the most literature averse among us couldn’t help but fight over her nods. Under her eccentric, obsessive tutelage, my fellow students and I learned how to gather the clues that Mary Shelley and Shakespeare scattered for their readers, in the raindrops that glistened on their characters’ lashes, and the storms that lashed the tropical isles dotting their landscapes.
Flashes of foreboding, auspicious revelations, harsh judgments and subtle insights into character were there in black and white for us to dissect and interpret; we just had to skate across the lonely, otherworldly glaciers of Geneva with Frankenstein’s monster with our eyes open, to anticipate and bemoan his fate.
Whether it’s Sister Cherry’s continuing influence or a serious case of SAD, I can’t help but feel a thrill of delight for the day ahead when the sun peeks at me when I first open my eyes and a bone-chilling sense of foreboding when the sky is steel gray for too many days in a row.
The fact that Stephen and I just bought a house, a few days after a 5.8 earthquake shook the East Coast and the day before the first storm in history that managed to shut down the MTA, had me a little rattled.
We’re moving from semi-urban White Plains after a year of camping out in a convenient, but personality-free hotel-cum-apartment-complex to a totally rural home in the sticks of the Hudson River Valley.
Signing the mortgage felt like a Faustian bargain with The Bank in which I was exchanging my soul for permission to eat hot dogs and beans for the next year. Thankfully, I’ll be eating them next to Stephen and Penny in our bursting-with-personality (if not convenience) little cabin the woods.
We held our breath through the storm, and the house survived. Nary a branch fell on the house, though Hurricane Irene certainly howled resolutely enough. Wherefore art though, pathetic fallacy?
We celebrated the hurricane’s leave-taking with an appropriately cheap bottle of Prosecco and two budget shrimp recipes, with eggs. Pictures and recipes below!
Shrimp Con Lentils, Diablo
Makes 4 large servings
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, left whole, peeled
- 1 large dried red chili pepper (or 1 tsp dried cayenne pepper)
- ½ TBSP olive oil, plus more to taste
- 1 TBSP lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp cumin, plus more to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups green lentils, rinsed and cooked in simmering, salted water (or chicken broth if you have it), until al dente, about 25 minutes, drained and set aside
- 1 pound large shrimp, deveined, tails and heads off (I used frozen and defrosted them under cold tap water for about 10 minutes)
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Throw tomatoes, onion, dried pepper and garlic clove on aluminum or parchment paper lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper and pop in the oven until the tomatoes and onions caramelize, about 2 hours, stirring and tossing occasionally. Don’t be tempted to crank up the temperature. The low, slow roast allows you to roast the vegetables in less oil with wonderfully flavorful results. If pressed for time, double or triple the oil and crank up the heat to about 400 degrees.
- When roasted, cool to room temperature. Remove stem and some of the seeds from chili pepper (that’s where the serious spice lives, so leave in more or less depending on how much heat you seek), place all of the items in blender and blend, adding lemon juice at end, and more olive oil plus salt and pepper to taste.
- In salted, boiling water, cook shrimp until just done, about 10 minutes.
- Toss shrimp, lentils and tomato sauce, plus more olive oil and lemon juice, to taste (in a stockpot over low heat or at room temp), and serve with a few grinds of pepper.
Nutritional Breakdown for Shrimp Con Lentils, Diablo: About 375 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving. High in fiber, low-fat protein, iron.
Cost Breakdown for Shrimp Con Lentils, Diablo: About $3 per serving. Great source of protein, iron, niacin, phosphorus, zinc, selenium. Decent source of fiber. Somewhat high in fat.
Verdict / In the Future: Spicy, filling, healthful. My favorite combo! And unlike most fish dishes, this one keeps for a week or so in the fridge.
Thai Coconut Shrimp
Makes 8 servings
- 2 TBSP coconut oil (regular vegetable oil is fine)
- 2 cups Thai jasmine rice
- 1 pound large shrimp, cleaned, tails and heads off
- 1 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 limes, juiced + 1, sliced
- 1 TBSP Thai fish sauce
- 2 TBSP light brown sugar
- 2 inch nub of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ hot pepper (jalapeno for medium spice, habanaro for super spice, remove seeds from both to mellow heat)
- 3 scallions, sliced thin (white and light green parts only)
- ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, plus more for garnish
- Salt, to taste
- Combine peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, ginger, pepper and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust with more coconut milk if too spicy or acidic, more lime juice if it tastes dull or heavy.
- Cook shrimp in boiling, salted water until just cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and toast until fragrant and rice is coated in the fat, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of water, bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook until doneness indicated on package, typically 20-35 minutes.
- Toss the sliced scallions, pistachios, coconut flakes (reserving a bit of each) with rice. Add sauce and shrimp and toss to coat. Garnish with extra scallions, pistachios and coconut flakes (I toasted mine in a dry skillet, yum), sliced limes.
Nutritional Breakdown for Thai Coconut Shrimp: 525 calories and 28 grams of fat. High in protein, iron, fiber, manganese. High in saturated fat.
Cost Breakdown for Thai Coconut Shrimp: About $4.00 per serving.
Verdict / In the Future: The sauce is addictive. I had a few spoonfuls straight out of the blender — if you have extra, use it as dip or sauce for grilled meat or veggies.
Eggs, Two Ways
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 black tea bag
- 1 star anise, whole
- 4 eggs
- Boil eggs in water (just enough to cover eggs) for about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and tap lightly with spoon to form little cracks in shell. Add back to water, add the other ingredients, bring back to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, remove from heat. When cooled to room temp, put in fridge and let steep overnight.
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 TBSP honey
- 2 large star anise, whole
- 4 large boiled eggs, cooled
- Boil soy sauce with honey, star anise. Stir honey to dissolve. As soon as boils, take off the heat. Peel the cooled eggs, place in jar and pour soy over eggs, add water just to cover and pickle eggs in fridge overnight.
Nutritional Breakdown: About 80 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. The egg is full of Vitamin B12 and D, protein, selenium, riboflavin, phosphorus. Also high in cholesterol.
Cost Breakdown: About $0.50 per egg if you use organic, free-range eggs.
Verdict / In the Future: These eggs are great with buttered toast in the morning, or as a side to flavorful dinners. They keep for about a week. The flavor is intense in the pickled egg preparation, because you remove the shell before pickling it. The tea eggs are more subtle. In both, the pickling and steeping method greatly enhances the texture of the egg (just like brining meat improves texture). The sodium ions in the soy enters the cells of the egg and break down the protein structure, allowing more moisture to be drawn in and retained. The result is a creamier, richer-tasting egg yolk.