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South Shore News

Adventure awaits with recipe roulette


Published:   |   Updated: June 19, 2013 at 10:10 AM

I have a mild case of dinner boredom.

If you're anything like me you tend to make the same familiar meals day after day, rotating the usual standbys. Salad with a protein and beans with rice are part of my usual cast of characters. They're easy to make, quick to prepare and tasty. But that sometimes translates into a snooze-fest. So let's spin the wheel of fate this week and see what's for dinner.

Recipe roulette is a little game I concocted years ago to cook my way out of my chicken and pasta rut.

Here are the rules: I select a trio of cookbooks. Eyes closed, I open each book and randomly open a page to choose a recipe, and then I prepare one of the three dishes.

I could land on chocolate covered salami, rattlesnake empanadas or boombastic scallops... you get the picture. Variety is the spice of life, which my cookbooks can fuel quite well, especially the ones I've never used.

Because summer is the heart of salad season, I first chose "Salads: Beyond the Bowl" by noted food writer and editor of "La Cucina Italiana" magazine, Mindy Fox.

She's assembled a volume of tempting, seasonal dishes that push the salad envelope.

The page I turned to described a popular Mediterranean salad with whole marinated baby octopus. I'm all for trying new things, but I'm positive I'd get a horrified look if I announced, "Dinner tonight has eight legs."

One down, two to go. Something else was bound to click.

Next I pulled "The Naptime Chef" by Kelsey Banfield. The luck of the draw was Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew. I had leftover brown lentils in the fridge from dinner last night. "This is a definite possibility," I thought.

Every one of Banfield's recipes comes with a naptime stopwatch telling you how much time you need to prepare the dish and cook it while your child is sleeping. I plan to pass this book on to my No. 2 daughter, who's expecting her No. 2 child in September.

Last up was "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook" by Diana Kuan.

Kuan, a food blogger and cooking teacher, offers up dishes that all of us know and love: beef with broccoli, barbecued spare ribs, egg drop soup.

"Hmm," I thought. "This might mean I may not have to eat my takeout favorites out of a container."

I opened the book to a captivating photo of stir-fried shrimp coated in a tangy, sweet, and spicy sauce that offered an edge of garlic.

It isn't often I stumble across a dish that's minimalist in every aspect: quick and simple with few ingredients; yet sophisticated or at least unusual. This Sichuan-style stir-fry looks like one of those. The recipe called for ingredients I had on hand.

In Las Vegas, if a number is hot on the roulette wheel, you keep riding it. Why bet against a sure thing? Enjoy.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

SWEET CHILI SHRIMP

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons chili sauce

1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 shallot, finely chopped

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar, and chili sauce. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot and stir-fry until fragrant, 30 - 40 seconds. Toss in the shrimp and stir-fry about 2 minutes, until pink. Pour in the sauce and stir to coat the shrimp well. Transfer to a plate. Serve with rice or al dente cooked noodles.

Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal or 2 to 3 as a main course.

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