A cook at the ocean is a cook who is itching to get into the kitchen with a slew of seafood. Throw in access to America’s winter vegetable basket, and the urge is too strong to ignore. That’s what finally got me into the galley of our camping trailer last weekend on our month-long trip to Florida.
As I mentioned last week, the equipment comprises a 3-burner gas stove, an oven that isn’t much bigger than a microwave, and a microwave. With provisions from a farmers market and a seafood store, we had oven-roasted baby eggplant, sweet potatoes and kabocha squash with a thick grouper fillet Tony roasted outside over a wood fire. Cooking fish doesn’t need a sauce or seasoning other than salt.
The next evening Tony and I worked together in our mini kitchen to produce a summery ceviche made with ingredients from our pint-sized fridge. In about 30 minutes, we briefly simmered 1 1/2 pounds of succulent wild Gulf shrimp and tossed them with red bell pepper, green onions, mango and a tart grapefruit-lime dressing.
Tony made the dressing, did most of the chopping and helped me tweak the flavors. After we were done I showed him how I came up with the recipe — a list of ingredients jotted in the margin of a newspaper, transferred to a tablet in the order I planned to use them, and amounts penciled in as we worked and tasted.
I learn things every time I cook with Tony. Here’s one thing I already knew: If you’ve ever wondered whether to peel shrimp before or after you boil, steam or grill them, the answer is after. Shrimp cooked in their shells are simply more flavorful than shrimp that are peeled first. Of course, sometimes you must feel the shrimp first, such as for a stir fry. Not so for the recipe below.
GRAPEFRUIT SHRIMP CEVICHE
Boil shrimp in lightly salted water to cover, just until meat becomes opaque. Do not overcook. Immediately drain and refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process. When cold, peel and discard shells and tails. Remove the vein if desired. Drain well.In a medium-size serving bowl, combine the grapefruit zest and juice, lime juice, salt, togarashi or pepper flakes, grated ginger and olive oil. Beat until mixed well. Add remaining ingredients including the shrimp. Mix well. Cover and chill. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 1/2 lbs. extra-large shrimp (uncooked, in shell)
1 tbsp. grated grapefruit zest
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 to 1 tsp. togarashi (Japanese hot pepper mixture) or red pepper flakes
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
3 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped, both green and white parts
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
3/4 cup mango in 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup lightly packed chopped fresh basil
I have been enjoying some memorable meals at Pipo’s Cafe, a casual Cuban restaurant just up the street from our campground in St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach. The unpretentious restaurant serves homestyle Cuban dishes. All of the day’s offering are displayed in steam and trays behind a counter at the front of the restaurant. You look them over and order, and a waitress delivers them to your table.
There’s always a criollo mojo-marinated hind quarter of a hog so tender it spills from the skin in juicy shreds. Another staple is mojo-roasted chicken quarters. Two or three more entrees are added daily, along with black beans, white and yellow rice, incredible ham-flavored green beans, fried plantains and empanadas. Sandwiches (the Cuban has won awards) are made to order.
I don’t know how I’ll be able to leave this restaurant when Tony and I have to return to Ohio. Yeah, I’ll miss the sunshine and the palm trees and the beach. But mostly I’ll miss Pipo’s. The website is http://www.pipos.com.
From Robin, Creston:
When you featured an omelet restaurant some time back in your newsletter for the Post House Restaurant near Doylestown, I immediately put this restaurant on my restaurant bucket list. I had passed this restaurant many, many times, but when you said it was good, it went on the list. I did make it there and enjoyed it…but I’m embarrassed to say not until right after an article appeared in the Wooster Daily Record announcing this vintage landmark will be closing at the end of February. I enjoyed an omelet along with their home fries and hot cakes. They did not disappoint for great diner food!
I hope to make a return trip for a milk shake and a burger. I hope you and Tony make it back to Northeast Ohio before the end of February.
Dear Robin: I’m glad you got to the Post House before it closes. Last fall the owner told me they don’t want to, but the updates demanded by building inspectors are too expensive for their modest budget. Tony and I will be back in time for one last omelet.