I don’t play words with friends. I think it would be fun, but I’d probably be a little too obsessive about it. I could justify it as making me smarter and spending time with friends, but I just can’t seem to part with the time I’d spend coming up with words to beat the pants off all my friends.
Instead, I’ll be obsessive about cooking with friends. Apparently this is a new movement out there in the blog-o-sphere: a group of friends pick a cookbook, take turns picking recipes, and blog about the results. Sounds fun to me. A book club and cooking group all rolled into one neat package. My friend Maria, who lives in France, and her sister, who lives in California, did a similar project they finished recently. Check it out: http://mhbakeoff.blogspot.com. Once they finished Maida Heatter’s book, they decided to pick a new book. That’s where I come in. They thought it’d be fun to get impressions of cooking the same thing in very different places, so they invited little ole me in Mississippi to join in. Along with a few other friends, we have completed week one of Cook This Now! by Melissa Clark.
The book is organized in monthly recipes to take advantage of fresh, seasonal ingredients throughout the year. There are some really great recipes in the book. My goal is to blog the weekly recipes each Thursday for your culinary entertainment, some with pictures, some without. Though seasonal for the author (in New York) and myself (in Mississippi) varies some, I’ll just make adjustments along the way to stick with the idea of fresh as possible. I’ll be frequenting the farmer’s market downtown (April – October), local stores, and hopefully (fingers crossed) my own backyard garden for the ingredients.
The first recipe we cooked was Garlicky, Buttery, Spicy Calamari with Israeli Couscous. I called a few places in the Burg looking for calamari. I tried the Asian market by Best Buy and E & L Triangle Seafood on Hardy. Both places described to me a frozen package of squid that cost $20. The Asian Market was willing to sell me a whole squid. I just don’t see squid as a regional flavor for south Mississippi, so I went with the “fruit of the sea” as dear old Bubba Gump so adequately described them: gulf shrimp. I always buy my shrimp from E & L. They also sell boiled crabs and Leidenheimer poboy bread by the loaf. That’s worth going in there alone.
This meal came together super fast. I had the whole thing cooked in less than 30 min (maybe longer if my shrimp hadn’t been de-headed). I went with steamed broccoli for our side item. The broccoli and couscous cooked while I tossed the shrimp in the pan with the olive oil, butter, chili flakes, parsley and garlic. A squirt of lemon, salt and pepper finished the saucy shrimp. I tossed it together in the pan with the couscous, and that was dinner. The Little Guy didn’t eat much of it, but I think the second pinch of chili flakes made it a tad too spicy for him. The Big Guy loved it. He said even though he’s never had it with calamari, he’s pretty sure it is better with shrimp. Lucky for him, we’ll never find out. I’ll definitely be making this again, but with a little less spice to please the little one.