Monday, February 24, 2014

mediterranean shrimp cocktail

Hello. It's been a while, I know. This will likely be short, as I have a million other things I'm supposed to be doing this week. I just wanted to share a recipe and reminisce a little, and that's not always possible in the stuff I'm writing over on my poem-a-day blog

Yesterday I ran a beautiful sunset nine-miler and knew I needed a high-protein dinner afterwards, so I decided to fix something that I invented a couple of years ago. I always want to eat this dish in the springtime; I think it must be because it tastes really fresh and makes me think of warmer weather. At any rate, I was on my own for the evening, and whenever that happens, it's kind of a delicious thing to say to myself, "What would you like to eat tonight, since you don't have anyone else's tastes but your own to cater to?" 

I have to add that even this sometimes gets old. The truth is, I like to cook for other people, especially D. However, that's not always possible.

He and I have been living apart, off and on, for our entire nearly-ten-year relationship. We lived together continuously from 2007 to 2011, at which point he moved to Louisiana to take a job, and I kept my job at the University of Alabama and didn't join him until over a year later, so there were lots of weekend trips in both directions, interspersed with a substantial number of weekends when I was on my own. We owned a sprawling, midcentury modern house full of windows in Birmingham, where I lived by myself during that eighteen months. I drove over to Tuscaloosa to teach twice a week, but beyond that, I was often left to my own devices. I spent most evenings with Esme on the couch, curled up in a small, warm circle of lamplight, beset by irrational fears that a serial killer or zombies were watching me out there in the deep woods that surrounded the house. 

During the spring of 2012, I had just finished running my first half-marathon, so I was still eating pretty healthy. Without all the training runs to take up my time, I started reading (mostly memoirs), writing, and cooking more, and this recipe took shape one balmy weekend when I cranked open all the windows in the house for the first time in the season. Green, damp-smelling breezes blew through the rooms that evening, while I tinkered in a dim kitchen lit only by lamps until I'd made a dish I liked. 

We eventually sold that wonderful house, knowing we'd never live in Birmingham again. I still miss the big, airy kitchen, with its cool, black granite counters, and the adjoining keeping room, whose windows were perched perfectly level with the canopy of the gigantic post oak outside, so that it always felt as if I was sitting in a treehouse whenever I plunked down on the sofa with my solitary plate of dinner. It was a lonely year, a year that was also full of often-painful personal growth.

Whenever I eat this, it tastes like spring, melancholy, and impending change. I think you'll like it.

mediterranean shrimp cocktail

1 lb. cooked & peeled shrimp (halved, if you want)
10 Castelvetrano olives, pitted & chopped
3 or 4 canned artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
4 small campari tomatoes, seeded & chopped
2 tbsp. chives, chopped
1 small bunch basil, chopped
3 tbsp. crumbled feta
2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp. really good, fruity olive oil

Toss everything together gently, add salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings to taste. (I like things fairly pickly, so I usually end up adding just a splash more vinegar.) 

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