Summer brings in colors, vibrancy, fresh fruits and vegetables and also the sun and the heat. And the kind of heat this time that I am ready to do a fast forward in time and step into the crisp autumn time.
Before I left for our vacation, I was worried that India would be hot, that my children would have a hard time adjusting to the heat and the humidity. We all adjusted well there, but once we got back, the Texas summer showed us what a real summer can be like. While the markets are still selling fruits and vegetables with pretty colors,
(my first attempt to use a mobile phone to take food photograph – above)
anything in the yard at home, under this wretched sun have been reduced to brown wiry things, crumbling down in the heat.
Shrimp/Prawn is an integral part of Bengali Cuisine. Known to be the fish eating community, fish and shrimp is a vital part of a Bengali meal. I really did have enough while I was home. But now that the lost taste has been rediscovered and revitalized after many years, I am wanting more. All the authentic food and the meals together at one table with my dad, my close cousins, aunts, uncles and friends was an experience worth savoring every dear minute.
My dad ran around, getting everything I love. My aunts, neighbors our family friends cooked as I ordered, all my favorite home cooked dishes. I missed ma, a lot, but every one tried so hard to make me feel good that I am ever so grateful to them.
This recipe is not a traditional one, but the spices are; smoky cumin, chili peppers and the zesty fresh ginger flavors it well and reminds me of home. It is a humble healthy recipe – light and satisfying. I used the fresh summer zucchinis, tomatoes and other vegetables to make a light stew, good to be enjoyed with hot rice or dunked with crusty bread. The lentils add a nice texture and slightly thickens the sauce, but can be done without too. Any kind of squash or gourd can be used to substitute the zucchini. An authentic dish at home uses the bottle gourd/lauki/dudhi and it really pairs well with shrimp.
Shrimp Stew with Zucchini Tomato and Lentil
Ingredients: (serves 2-3)
- 1/2 lb medium shrimp, de veined & peeled but with the tail on
- 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 large zucchini, cubed
- 1/2 large red pepper, seeds removed and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, grated
- 1/4 cup chana dal/split brown chickpeas or Bengal gram
- 1.5 inch fresh ginger, made into a paste
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (or adjust amount to taste)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- salt to taste
- a few grinds of fresh black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups of water or stock
Note: Add vegetables of your choice: any summer squash, carrots, green beans, sweet onions, celery work really well here.
Clean and prepare the shrimps. Wash and pat dry. Sprinkle some salt and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Wash the lentils till water runs clear.
Prepare your vegetables at this time.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the chili flakes and the cumin seeds and cook till the chili flakes turn a darker shade and the cumin sizzles. Add the bay leaf , the potatoes and the lentils. Toss and cook at medium heat till the potatoes are kind of translucent, for about 2 minutes. Add pepper, the zucchini, and the shrimp. Toss everything together and cook at high heat for about 3 minutes.
Add the grated tomato and the ginger paste. Toss in the rest of the turmeric, salt, black pepper and cook at medium to high heat till all the water released from the shrimp and the vegetables dry off and they kind of start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Gently loosen then and scrape them off. Reduce the heat. This process also cooks the ginger and the tomatoes, so you do not have the raw taste once the stew is cooked. Add the water/stock and partially cover and cook until the shrimp and the vegetables are done.
Sprinkle some more chili flakes and garnish with your favorite herb if you wish.
Serve with some crusty bread or rice.