FEATURED AUTHOR RECIPE
Living in Beijing for four years was a revelation of different dishes, flavors, spices, and textures. I discovered a world beyond my own narrow experience, an enormous country divided into different regions, each with its own unique and vibrant cuisine. I ate with an open heart, and was rewarded by a greater understanding of an ancient and diverse country, and a greater acceptance of my own ethnic identity – experiences that formed the foundation of my novel.
Still, though I love to cook, I never cooked Chinese food at home. That is, not until a couple of years ago when I left Beijing and moved to Paris. Somewhere amid the gracious sweep of Hausmannian buildings, with my cravings for unpasteurized cheese and red wine finally satisfied, I began to yearn for something else… something spicy.
My dad gave me the recipe below – he’s a wonderful, creative cook who has been making these salt and pepper shrimp since I was a kid. Though in the book I imagine Isabelle’s mother making this dish as part of a multi-course Chinese feast, I like to serve the shrimp as a first course, pairing them with a leafy herb salad. Together the two form an east-meets-west combination, a fusion of two cultures – sort of like Isabelle, and sort of like me, too.
Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Herb Salad
Makes 4 servings
For the salad
3 cups arugula or mixed salad greens, washed and spun dry
For the shrimp
1. To make the salad: Toss arugula or salad greens with the leafy herbs. Add the vinegar and oils, toss, and distribute evenly to four salad plates.
2. To make the shrimp: Toss the shrimp with the salt-sugar-pepper mixture in a medium bowl, and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a wok or sauté pan on medium-high heat until smoking. Add shrimp to the hot pan.
3. As the shrimp cook, sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Add more oil if pan becomes too dry. Turn the shrimp when they turn pink, about 1½ minutes, and add remaining tablespoon of cornstarch. The cooking process only takes a few minutes.
4. When the shrimp have just turned pink, add the minced garlic and toss. Add the green onions and toss. Add just enough sherry to create a sauce that barely coats the shrimp. Remove from heat. Add the pine nuts.
5. Place 3 shrimp with sauce on top of greens on each plate. Serve immediately.
Makes about ½ cup
Note: This is a master batch for your spice cabinet. You can increase the quantities to make more and store it in a jar.
2 tablespoons sugar
Combine ingredients. Store in a tightly covered jar.