Last Sunday I had a fabulous opportunity to participate in the “Cook Here and Now” cooking event organized by Marco in San Francisco. People from all kind of backgrounds came together in the communal kitchen to enjoy cooking, sharing and eating delicious meals made with local, seasonal ingredients. The theme this month was “freestyle” seafood. Mid-afternoon, Twenty-five of us showed up carrying shopping bags full of fresh ingredients, set them down at cooking stations and started cooking. In an hour, yummy appetizers started appearing on the table, including goat cheese & rosemary potato focaccia, two different kinds of ceviche, pasta salad in fermented tomato sauce, zucchini pancake, etc. And, it just kept going. They were so good, but I put my spoon down before feeling too full to save room for the main course & dessert.
Mike and I joined the main course team. We found out that most team members were making Mediterranean-themed dishes (i.e. scallops & lobster risotto, paella, clams & mussel ouzo, baked salmon with orange glaze sauce, etc.). So, we decided to add the San Francisco “fusion” touch to the menu by mixing and matching our ingredients slightly differently from what we had planned to come up with ancho-pumpkin prawns. Oh, how nervous I was about this spontaneous revision. Although there was no competition, prize or critics in this friendly communal cooking event, I didn’t want to put out something inedible.
To start, we shelled 2 lbs prawns, except the last tail section. Then we placed the prawn shells in 2 cups of boiling water and simmered for 15 minutes. Next, we preheated some extra virgin olive oil and sautéd 1 red onion (chopped), 2 cloves garlic (crushed), 3 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds & 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds. Then, we seasoned it with 1 teaspoon sea salt, 2 teaspoons freshly ground ancho chili, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, ¼ cup fresh parsley, ¼ cup fresh cilantro & juice from 1 lemon. Next, we strained out the prawn shells, poured the stock over to the pot and brought it to boil. Finally, we added the prawns to the pot and cooked for 10 minutes. Right before serving, we also garnished with some fresh cilantro leaves & toasted sesame seeds to bring out the vibrant color of mildly spicy, fruity, earthy ancho chili pepper.
I paired it with 2008 Keith Tulloch Per Diem Viognier from Hunter Valley/Victoria in Australia. This crisp, fragrant wine exhibited notes of tropical fruits, lemon, pear & peach with a balanced acidity. The velvety texture and tangy finish of the wine also naturally made the palette keep going with this sweet, earthy & nutty ancho-pumpkin prawns. How nicely this Viognier picked up fruitiness of ancho chili pepper and sweetness of prawn meats! The wine’s oily texture and fruitiness were also awesome for the nutty flavor and rich texture of pumpkin & toasted sesame seeds. In a blind tasting, someone asked if I added tomato to my dish. I don’t know where the tomato flavor came from, but anything is possible when wonderful spices & a fantastic wine pair up to create magic, just like the magic created by a group of people coming together with cooking to share, learn and grow.
I hope you enjoy my “in promptu” ancho-pumpkin prawn recipe and the pairing with a Viognier. If the communal cooking sounds like a lot of fun, check out http://www.cookhereandnow.com. You will love the experience of cooking, sharing and connecting with other passionate home chefs, like I did. Happy cooking!