April began with a trip to Cuba with my boyfriend. It was a wonderful, relaxing holiday. The food was not so great, which is what everyone says about Cuba. Friends said, what is a foodie like you doing going to Cuba? We wanted a sun destination where we could do nothing but swim and drink pastel cocktails all day. I would have preferred Mexico because I love it, but since my boyfriend is Mexican we decided on Cuba–a place neither of us had been.
There was lots to enjoy. A day trip to Havana. A gorgeous pale turquoise sea and sandy white beaches. A lovely hotel with a top-notch fitness facility and several swimming pools. Our biggest problem every day was what Jacuzzi to visit. Still, every time I travel, no matter how much I enjoy myself I always return home feeling more thankful that I live in Canada, especially in a beautiful city like Vancouver.
One of the things I appreciate most is the food. I can’t think of any city that I have personally been to which offers such great quality for a relatively low price. You can eat really well here for ten or twenty bucks. I think that’s why Vancouver is known as one of the top ten restaurants cities in the world and why so many people eat out. For singles, it can be cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.
But even groceries—especially produce, can cost a lot less here than in other countries, like those in Europe. Michael Pollan says this is a bad thing. That America spends less on food than any other country in the world, so I guess Canada is not much different. We spend an average of six percent of our household income on food (though I would say I personally spend more like thirty and have the hips to show for it). This is the least we have ever paid for food in our history. The demand for cheap food has created all sorts of problems in our food system.
But I’m not going to get into politics in this post, although it’s a topic I’m passionate about. What I wanted to say is that through my food blogging journey, through my various travels over time, I have become immensely grateful to have experienced a wide variety of wonderful food—and also not so wonderful. I’m really appreciative of those experiences and the quality of food I can access where I live.
So now it’s May, full-on spring, and since I have been back from my vacation, I have been treating myself to great ingredients and am back into a rhythm of cooking again. One that had faltered in the last couple of months as I was preparing my portfolio to graduate from my photography program. I have made butter chicken and a variety of curries, Thai soup, souvlaki, and Serbian musaka—one with potatoes instead of eggplant like its Greek cousin. Inspired, I’ve been cooking my way around the world and reading some wonderful food memoirs, mostly about living in Italy, a country I have been hoping to return to soon.
These shrimp are not an Italian particularly, but they embody the spirit at the heart of Italian cuisine—simple fresh, fresh ingredients with a few key flavours like garlic and oregano. I often make these for my lunch and eat them with chunk of toasted ciabatta bread sopping with a good, peppery olive oil. At first I roasted them in the oven, then decided to pan fry them with lots of Parmesan, which gives them a wonderful, crusty golden coating, contrasting nicely with the tender but firm shrimp. They are best served with lots of lemon juice. You can serve a dipping sauce as well, but they are also delicious on their own.
- 2 dozen shrimp, deveined, head removed and tail on
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
- handful finely chopped basil leaves
- zest of one lemon + juice
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
- Using a whisk, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, lemon zest and chopped basil together in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add shrimp and half the Parmesan and toss well with hands to to coat.
- Heat pan on maximum heat; add shrimp and cook each side until pink–about 3-4 minutes total.
- Remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice on top; cover with the rest of the Parmesan and served immediately with slices of toasted ciabatta bread or baguette.