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"We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." David Mamet

Monday, February 02, 2009

Like Magic

Every night for 20 years, my mother made dinner. Some nights she made 3 dinners. One for us girls. One for my brother after his hockey practice. One for my Dad when he came in late from the City. After I left for college and she was working hard in real estate, she still managed to muster up gourmet meals every night. 
This makes my head explode. I have one child and one husband. They never require for more than one meal a night. Even still I feel like I've won the lottery when they ask to order from New Happy Taco.
Tonight, though, I'm channeling my Mom. I'm a little tired and it's cold but we just ordered in last night. What can I buy on the way home that will quickly become a delicious meal? I have leftover linguine, which brings to mind Mom's Shrimp in Spicy Tomato sauce, a dish she would often prepare after we flew in from New York.

"Your son is hungry, Mar," Mom would say. I'd glance over at Jack. He looked, as always, robustly well fed. Already in his bathing suit, he didn't seem in the least interested in food.
But who was I to argue with Mom's sixth sense for hunger vibes? If you weren't hungry right then, you would be by the time she finished cooking. And in retrospect, I also believe that cooking served the broader, deeper purpose as a bridge activity to help us settle in, to enfold us back into her warm, savory world.
Watching her make sauteed shrimp was like a magic show. Out of the fridge would emerge a plain package neatly wrapped in white butcher paper from Publix. Up would jump her able assistants (me and Karr) to mince the garlic and chop the tomatoes. In less than 20 minutes, the limp grey gelatinous bits would transform miraculously into bright pink, flavorful commas. And we would pause to savor the meal, our time together.
A fact my mother would have loved:
I read in the NY Times today that shell fish turn color due to a pigment called astaxathin, which is wrapped in a dark-colored protein. When heated, the protein falls away, like excess clothing, revealing the red tint beneath. It's the same tint that makes Flamingos pink. I don't know what evolutionary purpose this strip tease serves, but it makes me very happy.
Here's how she made it:
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tail still in tact
1 lb tomatoes, cubed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
grated parmesean cheese
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Heat oil and butter in skillet over medium-high temperature til frothy. Sautee garlic, red pepper flakes, paprika, and thyme until fragrant -- take care not to let garlic burn -- then add tomatoes. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce temperature and simmer for 10 minutes until flavors are well blended. Add shrimp. Cook until shrimp pink up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add parsely and stir. Serve with a baguette over linguine or rice. Add parmasean if desired. Garnish with sprigs of parsley.

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