Out, Out Damn Spot!

For those of you who don't frequent Shakespeare plays, that's a reference to a line in Macbeth. At first I thought I thought I was incredibly clever in quoting this Master Of Theater, until I Googled it and came up with this. (#11, in case you miss it).

Ah, well, we're not all perfect.

but back to my story...

Have you ever made a dish...a gloriously well-balanced dish, where every bite sang in your mouth? You know, from the kind of recipe that you saw in a new magazine, while thumbing through it in the line at the grocery store, that caused you impulsively toss it into your grocery cart and purchase it? Or perhaps the kind of recipe that caught your eye as you drooled over your brand new cookbook, safe in the arms of your most comfortable chair, drinking a glass of mint-graced iced tea?

The kind of recipe, however simple, that caused you to have that special food-driven epiphany we all know and love.

"I HAVE to make THAT."

The kind where you'll go out, drive all over town, all day long, looking for special ingredients and the best and freshest produce, fish or meat. And then you bring all of your exceptional purchases home, taking great care with them so that they stay their pristine best, and begin the journey of chopping, tossing, and tasting, until your beautiful dish finally emerges as greater than the sum of all of its wondrous parts.

You arrange it beautifully on the plate; noticing colors, textures and placement...

You place your garnish carefully on top...

(So proud of your magnificent accomplishment)

You take the dish outside into the perfect evening light...

And snap a photo of your creation in all of its gourmet glory...

Then you and your beloved sit down at your charming dinner table,
complete with a gently flickering candle and fresh flowers...

You can't wait to get to work the next day, to your computer, where you can download your masterpiece...

You're so excited to share this with your food-blogging brethren that you can barely even sleep because you're already devising the perfect story to go along with it...

You race into work early the next morning, downloading the picture onto your computer and inputting it into Blogger....

And then...

Oh, no...

What's that?

What's that SPOT on my beautiful picture? (right down below the word 'right')

Marring my very green, very carefully chosen butter lettuce? And my white plate? And my perfectly pink shrimp?

No, no, no!!

Why, oh why, am I cursed with SPOTS?!

Black-Eyed-Pea and Shrimp Salad, from Martha Stewart Living
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main dish.

3/4 c. dried black eyed peas (9 oz)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh savory plus 1 1/2 tsp coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 medium carrot, peeled and halved crosswise
2 garlic cloves; 1 crushed, 1 thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp cup plus 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
Boston or Butter lettuce

Put the black-eyed-peas in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 4 inches. Add the bay leaves, sprigs of savory, carrot and the crushed garlic clove. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cook partially covered for 10 minutes, then season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until the beans are tender, but not mushy, and begin checking after 10 min more for doneness. Drain. Discard everything but the beans.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet. Add sliced clove of garlic, and cook until fragrant but not brown. Add shrimp and 1 tbsp. of water. Raise the heat to medium high, cover and cook until the shrimp turn opaque and water has evaporated, about 3 min. Add the black-eyed-peas, remaining 3 tbsp oil, and cider vinegar. Season with salt if needed. Stir in chopped savory, and cook 1 min more. Remove from heat and serve warm over lettuce, garnished with savory sprigs.

Notes: Okay, confession: I used canned black eyed peas because I had them on hand (oh, I know, the shame, after all that drama above, but hey, even if not completely true, it's more fun to read, no?). So, I didn't drive around all over town looking for the perfect dried black-eyed-peas, but I did for the perfect lettuce, shrimp, etc. (I know, good for me that I spent my day driving around in the hot, non-air conditioned car). But, now, I wish I had...because that's probably where the SPOT came from! Canned black eyed peas will get mushy if you try to cook them with the other stuff enough to get a bit of the flavor (ie. this is what happened to me). So don't use canned black-eyed-peas, use the dried ones. Yes, it will take longer. But not much, and it will be better. With a dish as simple as this and with such few ingredients, the better the ingredients, the better the dish. No matter, because the salad was a perfect summer evening meal. Not a lot of hot cooking, light and refreshing, and perfect with some sweet tea and a nice big piece of crusty bread with butter.

7 comments from you:

Julie said...

I'm laughing but it's not at you --definitely with you.

Does it help to hear that the picture is still pretty and it looks (and sounds) like a wonderful meal?

J said...

hi michelle, looks pretty darn spotless to me (by which i mean it looks truly fabulous!) i know exactly what you mean about going out of the way to make that siren call of a recipe... so many recipes, so little time. sigh.

vlb5757 said...

I love shrimp and being from the South, black eyed peas are eaten at my house. We don't eat them all the time, but have them on New Year's Day and at Easter. This looks like something I could talk the hubster into eating. He is not a bean guy. The picture looks great. Are you sure you aren't seeing the spots on the peas??? LOL!

cookiecrumb said...

Maybe you should have used Spot Prawns!

mrs d said...

Hah! That's what Photoshop is for. (I cheat, oh yes I cheat when I see spots.)

...Though I do like Cookiecrumb's suggestion!

paz said...

LOL! Actually, looks perfect to me. The spot makes shot more real. ;-)


michelle said...

Hi Julie, we can't win them all, I suppose! Thanks for the compliment, and for visiting!

Hi Jocelyn, I'm right there with you! I love "siren call of a recipe" - what a perfect description! And oh yes, so many recipes, so little time...

Hi Vickie, That's usually when I've eaten them too, but for some reason this recipe just sounded sooo good...I may have to make black-eyed-peas a pantry standard! My dad's whole side of his family is from Texas, and he was born there, so I definitely have some Southern roots, even if I haven't personally been able enjoy them. Good luck with hubby!

Hi Cookiecrumb! Ha ha ha ha ha! I should have known you'd come up with a dazzling solution to my dilemma! I love spot prawns! (and Oceans Alive is a great organization too, by the way!)

Hi Mrs D! I need to really sit down and learn photoshop - it would be so helpful in my blogging life with my kitchen's terrible lighting, and with all these damn spots in my life, it would probably save me an innumberable number of times!! Too bad it doesn't work for real life either!

Hi Paz! Thanks! I guess that's why I'm a scientist and not a food stylist! LOL!