Multi-National Scampi…and One Creepy Crawlie

The check-out lady at the grocery store wasn’t pleased with my choices this evening.

First, she grabbed the Kit Kat bar I had snuck onto the pile. (Busted!)

“These are buy one, get two free,” she told me.

“I only want the one,” I said firmly.

“But they’re free.”

“Yes, but I’d eat them.”

She muttered something about putting the extra candy bars away somewhere, to give to someone else.  She clearly doesn’t understand my “issues” with chocolate.

She shook her head disapprovingly at my shrimp.  I rarely buy shrimp when it’s not on sale, and the look on her face made clear that I never should.

She scrunched her face up at the price of my mangos. They were 4 for $5. Not terrible for mangos around here, but bad enough to make her sigh.

But, it was the baby eggplant that really caused her brow to furrow.

“You would have been better off with the candy,” she told me as she looked at the price.

Well, maybe.  But then I wouldn’t have been able to make this!

Okay, it's not the prettiest food...but it is tasty!

Okay, it’s not the prettiest food…but it is tasty!

First…a little about inspiration.

I’ve long been a huge fan of Cooking Light’s recipe for Greek Style Scampi.  I generally have raw, frozen shrimp in my freezer, diced tomatoes in my pantry, and feta in my fridge.  So, it’s one of those meals I can throw together when I’ve forgotten to plan.

But, it pretty much needs to be served over pasta or with a nice hunk of crusty bread to soak up all the sauce. Not exactly waistline friendly, despite being a Cooking Light recipe.

Look at that adorable little baby eggplant.  Isn't he cute?

Look at that adorable little baby eggplant. Isn’t he cute?

I also am a huge fan of eggplant. I especially love eggplant when it’s been cooked so long that it melts and develops a silky, creamy texture that coats your palate.  The best example of this I know comes from a Boston restaurant called Lala Rokh. They used to bring us lunch at work every fourth Friday (that’s a very long story) and I’d try to be first in line, just so I could pile my plate with the stuff.  I was eating it for months before I even knew it was eggplant.  According to their website, the dish is called Kashk-e bademjan.  No…I don’t know how to pronounce that.

So, in honor of the dish’s international inspirations…I’m going to call it.

Multi-National Scampi

1 baby eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
salt
1/2 lb. raw shrimp
1 T olive oil
1 large shallot, finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can diced tomatoes (I love the fire roasted ones)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
water — I don’t know how much
pepper, parsley, basil — whatever you’ve got on hand
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled with the tails removed
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (though, in retrospect, goat cheese would have been sooo much better)
1/2 lemon

Put the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Let sit for 30+ minutes, to draw the bitterness out. Rinse with water when through.

In an oven safe skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add eggplant and shallots.  After 5 minutes, add bell pepper.  Cook until all are soften and slightly browned.

Add garlic.  Cook 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes (with liquid) and tomato paste.  Use the kind that comes in a tube, if you can get it.  Otherwise you’re going to find yourself throwing away a lot of tomato paste!

So cute!  I love this stuff!

So cute! I love this stuff!

Reduce heat and simmer until the eggplant can be smashed with the back of a spoon. You’ll have to keep adding water to keep the mixture loose. This would also be a good time to pre-heat your broiler.

Season to taste with salt (not too much!), pepper, parsley, basil, etc.  Use whatever floats your boat.

Once the eggplant has turned silky (maybe 20 minutes?) add the shrimp.  Stir to incorporate.  Top with cheese.

Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes–until the cheese has started to melt and the shrimp have turned pink.

Serve with a lemon wedge.

Serves two.

Voila! It totally would have been better with goat cheese.

Voila! It totally would have been better with goat cheese.

That’s about it. Except…oh…did I promise you creepy crawlies?

When I got my groceries home, I discovered I had a stowaway in my bag of grapes. A black widow spider! I managed to get him off my precious red globes (which promptly went into the trash) and into a tiny tupperware. Wanna see?

(I’m going to try to make the picture really tiny. If you’re prone to losing you appetite at the sight of spiders, please don’t click for the full-sized version.)

You've been warned.

You’ve been warned.

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