Cook: shrimp, fennel, and orange salad
Shrimp, Fennel & Orange Salad and The Last Gasp of Summer
Shaved fennel, cooked shrimp, and charred oranges in a cool salad
Summer is well, and truly over, the kids are back at school, and I, for one, am more than ready to put away the grill, swap out the screens, and swing into autumn.
Alas, the hot, muggy air is lingering, so although I am so ready to break out my sweaters, warm up the apple cider, and return to my weekly gi-normous pot of soup habit, it seems it will be a few more days or weeks until this is possible. I’m having to fall back on some of my hot weather recipes because I can’t face the idea of turning on the stove.
I am seriously ready for soup, aren’t you? Corn chowder, particularly, has been on my mind. Partly because they are practically paying us to take it away from the farm stands, but also because it screams “autumn” to me in the way few other soups can (except pumpkin soup, but I am so done with pumpkin everything). I lay in my bed this morning thinking about how marvelous a massive vat of corn chowder topped with cooked shrimp and fresh cilantro would be.
But then I ventured outside to get the mail and ugh…the air had taken on the consistency of corn chowder, and not in a good way. It was so humid I could hardly breathe.
Which left the cooked shrimp. I dug into my archive and came up with this fabulous recipe I put together for my column in The Moscow Times for International Women’s Day. If you are not familiar with this slightly odd holiday, here is an excerpt from my piece:
What started out as a marvelously feminist holiday — arguably the midwife of the Russian Revolution — has somehow been parlayed into a one-way Valentine’s Day in Russia. If you are a woman, you’re meant not to take to the streets, but instead lounge around in your best lounging attire while the men do all the domestic housework. Including the cooking.
These days food writers are being encouraged/ordered/compelled, not so much to dumb it down but to simplify the bejesus out of a recipe. And I get it — just as people eschewing car ownership for the convenience of UBER and Lyft, there is also a trend to streamline the process of food prep. I continue to be baffled by the growing popularity of the almost-kinda-sorta-ready-made meal kits such as Blue Apron, where they send you exactly the portions you need, down to the tablespoon soy sauce or the one clove of garlic. It’s insane! But okay, it’s simple.
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Russian men aren’t known for their prowess or proclivity in the kitchen (the grill is another matter entirely) so I did not need to be reminded by my editor to “keep it simple, please!” For these poor chaps, chained to the kitchen on that one day a year, I came up with this recipe, which I think is one of my true slam dunks.
I used to be quite intimidated by shrimp, feeling that the only thing for them was to lay them out on a bed of ice and spike some cocktail sauce with Tequila (really, try it). But then my Russian in-laws came to stay and I served up a large seafood platter along these lines and…they didn’t touch it. I was somewhat baffled and not a little offended by this. I later learned that they were waiting for the shrimp to come to room temperature, since ice, as every Russian knows causes cancer. Yes, really.
So, I’ve had to branch out. These days, I enjoy shrimp all kinds of ways, but this salad remains a firm favorite: the orange and fennel work very well together, nice tart foils to the shrimp’s pungunt flesh. A little crunch from the scallions and some flavor nuggets from the shoots, and in under 30 minutes, you have a salad that can work as a starter or main course.
The only piece of vaguely complicated kitchen kit you need for this is a mandoline slicer, which I feel firmly no home should be without (my editor tells me I’m crazy, and I’m sure she’s right because she always is, but how else do you make a shaved salad?) Okay, in a pinch, a sharp knife will serve.
I’m having Shrimp, Fennel, and Orange Salad for dinner tonight before I head to my air-conditioned bedroom and dream of frosty mornings and corn chowder for lunch.
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Photo: Jennifer Eremeeva
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Exploring food markets, developing recipes, and just eating was once my hobby, but now it is a full-time job. I write about food markets around the world, develop recipes, and study culinary history and emerging trends. I have a particular interest in Russian and Eastern European cuisine and culinary history.
I believe that great books are part of a life well lived and this extends to audio entertainment. Under the Lifestyle umbrella, I review books, podcasts, and audiobooks, I discuss writing and reading and am constantly on the lookout for new ways to be productive and clear all manner of clutter from my life.