Cooking Doldrums

On the Road with Friends 2008, oil on canvas, 18 x 44 inches

I’m ready for a trip but unfortunately, the threat of the new covid variant means no travel. We did make a dash into Denver on Saturday for lunch at The Bindery and a matinee performance of The Lion King, the tickets a present from Zoë two years ago. We had a lovely time with our daughter and the fabulous animal/humans in the play.

The last calendula

The days are sunny and warm, the nights cool. It’s very dry. As pleasant as the days have been, I’m ready for some real winter. My cooking is stuck in a no-man’s-land for inspiration. I’ve been depending on my pantry and my old standards to feed us tasty but, to me, uninspired meals. I did get Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Baking with Dorie, from the library, and am eager to try some of her savory recipes. Maybe my cooking doldrums are over. More on that later.

I remembered a recipe for shrimp cakes in my book. With frozen shrimp in the freezer and a hunk of butternut squash that needed to be cooked, I conjured up a pretty good meal.

For 2-3 servings of shrimp cakes:

Thaw and peel 8 – 12 ounces of shrimp. Chop them fairly finely, but leave some small chunks. Add a teaspoon of minced ginger, a minced clove of garlic, a couple of green onions, chopped, a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes. Stir in a large egg white, (save the yolk for the coating), and a tablespoon of panko – bread crumbs. Add a bit more if the mix seems wet and runny. Chill for 1/2 hour.

Form into 4 – 6 small cakes, squeezing a bit to combine. (Large portions are hard to manage.) Dust with flour, then dip into the beaten egg yolk, then into panko. The cakes are delicate at this stage so handle them gently. Put on a plate and refrigerate until time for dinner. This chilling will firm them up.

Sauté at medium heat in 2 tablespoons olive or safflower oil until browned and cooked, usually about 3 minutes a side.

I made a cabbage slaw to accompany the shrimp cakes. Shred enough cabbage to make two cups or to taste. Add 1/2 a thinly sliced apple, chunks of roasted butternut squash, and a handful of chopped cilantro. (I had half an apple left from lunch and a piece of squash from another dinner. Use what you have.)

For the dressing, combine the juice of 1/2 a lime, a teaspoon of maple syrup, a teaspoon sesame oil, a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon shoyu. Add a tablespoon of two of olive oil. Taste and adjust to your liking. Toss the veggies with the dressing and top with toasted pepitas.

I served the cakes and slaw with roasted, rather, over-roasted, Yukon gold potatoes.

The temperature dropped last night. Perhaps we are finally in for some winter weather.

Late fall sunset on Blue Mountain Road

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