World cup cuisine (feat recipe for gambas al ajillo)

World cup cuisine (feat recipe for gambas al ajillo)

Originally published July 15, 2010

Like much of the rest of the planet, my attention has been on soccer the last few weeks. As a current ”soccer dad” and former high school soccer player I’m fan but the 2010 World Cup had me interested in the game for a whole new reason. During Round 16, as I watched Uruguay defeat South Korea what kept coming to mind was not my favorite players for each team but something else entirely.

I found myself asking questions like, “If I had to choose between a Uruguayan Chivitos (a hot steak sandwich topped with bacon, eggs, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes) or some earthy Kimchi from South Korea, which would I pick? In the quarter finals it was garlicky Argentinean Chimichurri verses a satisfying German Weinerschnitzel. In all of these games it was nearly impossible to root for one team over another, like being forced to say which of your children you love the most.

So as I sat down to watch the final match, I was filled with nervous anticipation as well as some pretty intense cravings. Sure it was warm outside but I was indoors in the air conditioning and thought a rich and hearty Flemish Stew would really hit the spot. As I thought about the beef slow-simmered in dark beer and then topped slices of bread spread liberally with mustard I was sure I wanted The Netherlands to come out on top.

No sooner than I had convinced myself of the superiority of the tasty Dutch cuisine my imagination was overtaken with lustful thoughts of exotic Spain. I envisioned the tomatoes in my backyard nearly ready for Gazpacho and I could almost taste the sea in the Paella of my mind. My heart then began to race a bit as I imagined sharing a bottle of ruby-red Tempranillo with Penelope Cruz. Unfortunately that’s when my wife walked into the room so I didn’t get a chance to play out that particular scenario. Penelope is probably still waiting for me to return.

In the end, Spain was victorious and I’ve continued my obsession with Spanish cuisine over the last few days. I’ve been looking at my calendar for a good date to have a tapas party to prepare and enjoy small servings of lots of Spanish dishes. Until then I’ll settle for a weeknight dinner of Gambas al Ajilla. This Shrimp with Garlic dish is quick and easy to prepare. Add a green salad and some good bread and you have a terrific summer meal. I wonder if my wife would mind if I invited Penelope?

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic)

  • 1 lb shrimp, 25 count to a pound (peeled and deveined)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 oz dry sherry instead)
  • 3 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon for juice

Sprinkle the shrimp with salt, toss and let sit for 15 minutes. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy nonstick sauté pan, and add the garlic, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Cook about one minute or until the garlic begins to color. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the shrimp. Cook and stir for about two to three minutes or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the parsley and serve with a wedge of lemon along with come crusty bread. Serves about four as a main dish or six to eight as a tapa.

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