A Gift From A Stranger

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This week I found myself in a jewelry store while running errands with my daughter. She was having her rings cleaned and making a return. While she browsed, the store owner, a friendly young man named Peter, started a conversation with me. This is how it went.

Peter: How many children do you have?

Me: Two. Caitlin is my oldest. (hesitation) …..And I have a son who is deceased. He died just before his 23rd birthday

Peter: Oh, I am so sorry (hesitation)……how old was he?

Me: He died just before his 23rd birthday

Peter: (now a little flustered) that’s right you just told me that I am sorry

Me: It’s okay it’s been quite a few years since he died

Peter: What happened?

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Needless to say Peter opened the door for a long conversation about who William was and where he had been in his life. Peter ended the conversation by saying: “It sounds like your son lived out a dream. He knew what he was born to do at such a young age. He’s quite amazing. We should never forget him.” I told Peter that I loved talking about my son and thanked him for the conversation. In a room of diamonds and sapphires it is a conversation with a stranger that is the most precious gift.

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Another gift I just received is a small crop of meyer lemons. I care for a potted plant that spends warm days outside and frigid ones indoors. In return I am gifted a juicy crop. This year a half dozen of lovely lemons. Meyer lemons are readily available in the grocery store this time of year, but if you can’t find them substitute a mix of fresh lemon and orange juice.

Meyer Lemon Grilled Butter Shrimp

3 tablespoons dry white wine plus additional for soaking skewers

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1-tablespoon fresh meyer lemon juice

1 teaspoon of honey

4 garlic cloves, grated

2 tablespoons chopped parsley plus additional for garnish

1 pound extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined (about 20 shrimp)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

4 slices meyer lemon

Soak 4 to 6 wooden skewers in Mark West Pinot Grigio for 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons wine, 1 tablespoon of oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic and parsley. Season the shrimp with kosher salt and pepper and add to the bowl, tossing to coat with marinade. Let stand for 15 minutes. Thread the shrimp onto skewers. Brush shrimp with half the melted butter; sprinkle with Aleppo pepper. Grill the shrimp, on a lightly greased grill pan, over moderate heat, basting with remaining butter and turning, until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, brush lemon slices with remaining teaspoon of oil. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Grill lemons for about 2 minutes per side; serve with shrimp. Garnish with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, if desired. 

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Tip: if using frozen shrimp look for bags labeled: IQF (Individual Quick Freezing) for better tasting and well shaped product. As always buy American.

 

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Preserve Your Story & Lemons

roasted shrimp with preserved lemon

roasted shrimp with preserved lemon

Last week the NY Times article, Getting Grief Right by psychotherapist Patrick O’Malley circulated around Facebook. What I liked most about the article was how much buzz it generated. While I did not agree with all that O’Malley had to say, especially the notion, “the size of their grief corresponds to the depth of their love”, I did appreciate the 358 comments of people thinking and talking about grief. The truth is there is no getting it right or wrong, but the need to talk about it is enormous. What is your story?

Like a fingerprint no two grief experiences are the same and YOUR experience may or may not correspond to the depth of your love for the person who has died. A prime example of this is the way I have handled the death of my parents and that of my son. I could not have loved my parents more. Both lived well into their late 80’s. Long, happy, productive lives surrounded by their children and grandchildren. When they died it seemed like the natural order of things. Was I sad? Yes. Am I filled with an overwhelming sorrow? No. In fact, I am only filled with gratitude for loving parents who were able to live such long and wonderful lives and die quickly without much pain.

the anxiety in my face as he leaves home for life in the military

the anxiety in my face as he leaves home for life in the military

Losing my son, on the other hand, has been the complete opposite grief experience. I own an enormous amount of sorrow as he died too soon. Although he accomplished much to be proud of in his short 23 years his life was just beginning. He had plans. There will never be closure in spite of what society expects. A society that fears pain, especially emotional pain, and prefers to bury it or stifle it with medication.These feelings are not weaknesses or illnesses, but part of what makes us human. They are normal and are to be respected and preserved. If sorrow is your story write it or tell it to anyone willing to listen. And if anyone has the nerve to ask, “Are you over it?” Don’t be afraid to hit them over the head with a book. A thick book like Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or one of those big coffee table books.

preserved lemons

preserved lemons

Preserving family traditions and now lemons is part of my cooking story. At this year’s feast of the 7 fishes I made this recipe from Tasting Table. It’s delicious and gave me the excuse to finally try preserved lemons which is more traditional to Moroccan and North African cooking. Whole Foods sells the lemons packed in a salty brine, but if you don’t mind waiting a month for this intensely flavored lemon rind then try making your own.

dig in

dig in

Roasted Shrimp with Preserved Lemon

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

For the Garlic Confit Oil

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, halved

2 fresh bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Shrimp

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup garlic confit oil

3 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon

pinch of sea salt

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley

Make the garlic confit oil: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Cook until the garlic is tender but has not started to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the oil cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, arrange the shrimp and toss with the garlic confit oil and preserved lemon. Season with salt and red pepper flakes then roast, turning halfway, until the shrimp are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the oregano and cilantro.

Memories & Recipes: Please Share

low country potato salad

low country potato salad

Have you read The Giver by Lois Lowry? It is the story of a frightening world where freedom of choice has been taken away. It is a world of government-controlled sameness devoid of emotion and memories. There are vivid scenes of infanticide and elder euthanasia that brings this one to tears. Thankfully, the main character, a 12-year-old named Jonas, is about to set this world on fire. He is “the Receiver” of the memories and quickly learns it is just too much for one person to bear.

sharing some memories

Sharing some memories

memories of great friends

Fun Family Memories

Like Jonas, I agree that memories are meant to share. After William died the best gifts given to me were memories of him. The personal stories provided a glimpse into his world through the eyes of others. I learned so much about him from friends, family, classmates, military brothers and sisters. They felt so very privileged to know him and were delighted to share a few tales. It was the good, the bad and the ugly of William. It was comforting. For the most part it made me laugh and to this day thoughts of these memories continue to heal me. I would be lying, however, if I did not admit to at least one story that made me cringe. Trying to put that one out of my mind and forgive the one who shared it.

memories of great friends

Memories of great friends

So if you ever find yourself wondering what to say or write to someone who is grieving…Share a good memory of the deceased. And if you live close and feel the need to stop by share a family favorite recipe. Bring your most comforting dish. It is a sign of your love and caring. Don’t forget to share a copy of the recipe.

I never quite understand those who covet their recipes. Guarding grandma’s secret sauce mix or worse, yet, sharing a recipe, but omitting an ingredient on purpose. I, on the other hand, think it the ultimate compliment when one asks me for a copy of a recipe. Recipes like memories are meant to share. Enjoy. This one brings back memories of my days in the South.IMG_0845

Low Country Style Potato Salad

12 small (1 pound) red-skinned potatoes

2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

½ pound large shrimp, shelled, deveined

1 cup fresh cut or frozen sweet corn, thawed

2 links fresh andouille sausage, casing removed

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chili sauce

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley plus additional for garnish

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 rib crisp celery, chopped

4 green onions, thinly sliced including some of the green part

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

Place a metal steamer basket in a large pot. Add water to a depth of 2- inches. In a bowl, toss potatoes with vinegar. Drain vinegar into pot with water; bring water-vinegar mixture to a boil. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon old bay seasoning; place in steamer basket, cover and cook 20 minutes or until tender. Transfer potatoes to a plate; let cool. In bowl, toss shrimp with remaining 1-tablespoon old bay seasoning. Place shrimp and corn in steamer basket; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until fully cooked. Transfer to plate; let cool. Meanwhile, brown sausage in small skillet, breaking up into crumbles with a wooden spoon; set aside. In small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, chili sauce, parsley, lemon juice, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce; cover and chill dressing until ready to assemble salad. Cut potatoes and shrimp into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, shrimp, corn, half the sausage crumbles, celery, green onions and eggs with the dressing. Place potato salad on a large serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining sausage crumbles and garnish with parsley.