Mar 012011

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I don’t buy cooking magazines. But every once in a while we have extra frequent flyer miles, and the airlines will send us a voucher for free subscriptions to several publications. I always ordered Gourmet, because I loved Ruth Reichl and the photography was amazing. Since it was discontinued, I go back and forth between Food&WineBon Appétit, and Everyday Food.

I have to admit that I have a weakness for printed material. Glossy pages, beautiful photos, and the smell of paper fresh from the press is like crack to me. As a child, I never wrote in my books, I never folded the corners to mark my place, I never flipped a paperback for easier reading. My books had to stay immaculate, even in college, when all the comments and quotes ended up in notebooks, rather than underlined or in the margins. Marring a book’s pristine pages seemed sacrilegious. I apply the same standards to magazines, and it is not surprising that a growing pile of them always resides somewhere in my house, moved from one place to another, most of them still untouched.

When we moved from Ohio to California, I had to scale down from over 3500 square feet with a finished basement and a huge two car garage to little over 900 square feet with no basement, no garage, no yard, and no storage space of any kind. As neither one of us was willing to part with our many books that fill more than seven bookcases, we had to apply a different strategy. Husband had to give up boxes of obsolete electronics and do-it-yourself gadgets. The kids had to donate a lot of toys, games, and clothes to the Berea orphanage. I had to let go of a lot of my kitchen stuff. And I had to give up my magazines. I leafed through every single one, copied the recipes I liked into my digital cookbook, brought them all to the library, seemingly unopened and new, and left them knowing that somebody would take care of them.

It did not take long for a pile of magazines to appear on my side table in our tiny apartment in Southern California (I apologize to my friends and family in Europe for calling a perfectly ample and comfortable area of 90 m squared tiny; it’s all about relativity). It is not as impressive as before because I reined myself in and got the subscriptions to only one at a time. They are so pretty, all shiny and new, with beautiful photos adorning their front pages. I want to cook from them, but just the thought of them being in close proximity to splattering oil or a whirring mixer gives me the chills. I cannot submit my lovelies to such treatment…

But I am aware that we have to use our furniture for other purposes than as magazine stands, especially if the magazines are just sitting there idly. In the meantime a glossy, new sample diligently appears in our mail box once a month. So a compromise was born out of desperation. When I announced that I would write down a recipe I like to make out of a magazine every week or so in one of my handy notebooks, Husband rolled his eyes in disbelief and asked why I just didn’t load it in my iPhone like all the normal people.

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Barbara of Vino Luci Style has a  monthly blog event called RSVP Redux that features the recipes from Bon Appétit’s RSVP section. I wanted to participate for several months, but an aforementioned (barely noticeable) disorder prevented me. The stack of magazines was eagerly waiting to fulfill its existential purpose, and for once, I was highly motivated. The quest for the introductory recipe has begun.

When Father was here recently on his usual extended visit, he wanted to take us out to dinner. He is a gourmand, and I always try to expose him to new culinary experiences. I picked a Peruvian restaurant, Inca Mama, not too far away from us, knowing that this would be something new and unfamiliar for all of us. The service was not that great, but the atmosphere was good and we loved the food.

As I was thumbing through my Bon Appétit issue from July of 2010, I found a recipe that reminded me of one of the dishes we had that night which impressed us the most in all its simplicity: Pasta with Shrimp and Cilantro-Lime Pesto. It was in the RSVP section and seemed like a wonderful start, especially after Husband had been hounding me to try to replicate his Peruvian meal. The list of ingredients was short and my mental faculties were not sufficiently challenged to make me reach for a pad and pen.

I have made the original pesto Bolognese many times, ever since I discovered the strange-looking, vibrantly green sauce served over cappellini pasta in fine-dining Italian restaurants in the 80s. I occasionally substituted parsley for basil, and walnuts for pine nuts just to experiment with the flavors. But I have never used cilantro in pesto. I associate pesto with Italian cuisine and cilantro with Latin American and Asian food. I love my Asian noodles with my Asian sauces, and it did not occur to me to attempt some kind of fusion, as I thought that it was something only Ming Tsai did. Now that I think of it, I know that there are a lot of Italian immigrants in Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela who invariably brought their traditional dishes to their new homes and adapted them to the local ingredients.

The dish came together in less than thirty minutes. I blended cilantro, garlic, green onions, jalapeño peppers, lime juice, and olive oil until emulsified, while the pasta was boiling. As soon as it was done, I sauteed the shrimp, added the tequila and sauce, and mixed everything with linguine. I was supposed to sprinkle crumbled Feta on top (I did not have Cotija cheese as the recipe specified) after I served it, but I forgot. Unbelievably easy, but packed with tastiness. A fresh, intensely flavored, restaurant-style dish appeared on our dinner table in minutes. And no magazines were harmed in the process.

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PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND CILANTRO-LIME PESTO (Bon Appétit, July 2010, adapted from Tejas Texas Grill & Saloon in Hermantown, Minnesota)


  • 1 ¾ cups fresh cilantro, plus ¼ cup chopped (reserve for later)
  • ¼ cups green onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped, seeded, jalapeño chile
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 1lb linguine
  • 1 lb uncooked shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 3 Tbsp tequila
  • ¼ cup crumbled Cotija or feta (optional)
  • salt, pepper


Blend cilantro, green onions, lime juice, garlic, and chile. Gradualy add ½ cup olive oil with machine running. Season generously with salt. Prepared sauce can be made one day ahead and refrigerated.

Cook linguine in a large pot of salted water until cooked al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook until almost opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, add tequila, return to heat, and stir for 30 seconds to thicken a sauce a little. Add sauce, stir to combine, and remove from heat.

Add pasta, toss, and season woth salt and pepper.

Divide among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and chopped cilantro, and serve.

Serves 4.

Besides RSVP Redux, I am sending this dish to Hearth ‘n Soul blog hop, hosted by Alex of A Moderate Life and Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast (Presto Pasta Nights celebrates its forth birthday on Friday, and this Thursday there is going to be a bash there! Great chance to visit!)

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