Several days ago I was invited to a potluck picnic and asked to bring a salad. One would expect a food writer to have a continuous deck of recipes shuffling through her brain, that perfect recipe ready to pluck at a moment’s notice.
Not necessarily so. I felt uninspired; like a woman with a closet overflowing with clothes complaining she has nothing to wear. A woman who has cooked it all, and eaten it all. Jaded. Not good.
At times such as this, a trip to the farmers market unleashes the floodgates, especially if my friend, Alesia, joins me. Her favorite food tastes like a summer day, bursting with sunny flavor — the crunch of greens, the tang of citrus. If Alesia likes a recipe, I’m sure I will too.
We passed a table with baby cucumbers.
“Ina (Garten) has a yummy orzo pasta salad recipe with shrimp and cucumbers,” Alesia commented. “It’s got a lot of fresh dill and lemon.”Hmm. A twinge of inspiration; I purchased a carton of baby cukes. We wandered to the People’s Coop; I may as well get a block of feta and bag of orzo, just in case. If I don’t make the salad, I’ll use these items for something else. (If you’re not familiar with orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, give it a try. It’s perfect for entertaining guests. Unlike messy ropes of dangling spaghetti or other long noodle, orzo is easily scooped out of the bowl with a serving spoon.)
We continued our conversation in rhapsodic praise of Ina’s recipes in general. So often it seems to us that food stars have assistants put recipes out there just for the sake of numbers. Recipes results sometimes seem amiss. Pardon the pun, but the proof is in the pudding.
Ina is different; if Ina puts it out there, you know she’s tested and tasted it many times. You know if it needs more lemon, she adds more lemon. Her recipes are usually simple to make and exceptionally good.
Alesia said that the recipe calls for roasting raw, shell-on shrimp, which, according to Ina, intensifies their mild sweet flavor. That makes sense to me. Last year I grilled shrimp with the shell on for the Fourth of July, then served it with a Firecracker Sauce. The shell lent flavor to the shrimp and It was undoubtedly the best peel and eat shrimp imaginable.
At home, I went online to check out the recipe. Three-hundred and forty-nine, five-star Food Network reviews can’t be wrong; inspiration at last!
The following recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe for Roasted Shrimp and Orzo.
Changes I made: I halved her recipe, substituted chives for scallions, eliminated the red onion, used several baby cucumbers instead of 1 hothouse, and used less herbs (I ran out!) than her recipe called for.