I am in one of those phases in which I have been making lots of great food. Not to brag or anything, but I’ve just been inspired, and it’s been fun.
This can be a phase. I happen to be into it right now and have been going out of my way to try new dishes and techniques.
It all started when I went home to Charleston a couple of weeks ago. It is hard not to eat well when you are there. There is so much access to great food. The fresh seafood for starters. I go to this place to buy shrimp right on the docks. It is hard to find, kind of in the back of a neighborhood, but well worth the effort once you do. I found the $9-a-pound price kind of shockingly low. These are shrimp just out of the ocean that you can see out the back of the shack that have never been preserved or frozen.
I made shrimp at least three times during the week. Once in a curry, once boiled and pickled, and once done in a Greek style that was unbelievable. I hesitate to give out too many seafood recipes, and shrimp in particular, in this column, as I am really spoiled by shrimp from Charleston. I find it really hard to buy shrimp here. Not only is it expensive, it has usually been frozen and has almost always been sprayed with sulfites to preserve it, which makes them tougher.
When I get home from any trip to Charleston, I am always glad to be back but always a tiny bit sad that I can’t get shrimp like that here. Not to mention local grits, Carolina Gold rice, and fresh corn and peaches, months before we have access to them.
But enough about what we don’t have, let’s talk about what we do have here: the ability to grow lots of fresh greens and herbs. Currently I am growing about 15 types of fresh herbs (thanks to A New Leaf Garden Design). Things like pineapple sage along with the regulars we all love. It’s amazing to have fresh herbs anytime I want them.
Since I have the herbs, I am now trying to get creative when using them. At a recent dinner party, a friend brought homemade ricotta to my house. Until that night I had never been a huge fan of ricotta. I could take it or leave it. Basically I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.
That night, I fell in love with ricotta. Like most things, when you make it fresh, it’s way better.
You may be wondering what you can do with your freshly made ricotta. Everything! I’ts so good, I could serve it with about anything. But for starters, use it as a spread. Dot it on top of a pizza. In the middle of your next lasagna. Cook a panna cotta.
Or, better yet, serve it on grilled toast with fresh herbs sprinkled on top. Finish it with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper and you will have an appetizer that may replace the meal it’s so good.