It’s been two absolutely hectic weeks and I feel like I’m coming out of a long and rather challenging gauntlet. My boss was here from overseas (Yes, I have a boss! So when I say I am a worker bee I really do mean it!) and we had a series of intense meetings. That’s not to say that all this lay heavy on my shoulders. Intense yes, but rewarding and exciting nonetheless. Onward troops (as I like to say)!
Whatever the case though…I am feeling a bit raggedy around the edges but glad to find a spot of time to click-clack away at my keyboard and share some thoughts and a recipe with you.
Before the all the meetings commenced, a couple of weeks ago, we went on a lovely holiday out of the city to a little town called Urbiztondo in San Juan, La Union. San Juan is a surfer’s town, a seaside gem of a place with fierce waves, long sandy shores, and friendly people. I had never thought of exploring La Union before…simply because, well, not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t surf. And if you know me, you will know that the only kind of surfing I will ever be inclined to do is couch-surfing with a good book. But then I saw this post from a blog-friend and I was smitten. To get me on a surfboard would be an insurmountable task but to get me to a bougainvillea-swathed cottage by the sea? That wouldn’t take any convincing at all.
If I had been smitten by a few photos, the reality of this place enchanted me. That white cottage right by the sea, fuchsia blooms crawling crazily up its sides. A deck where we could dry our wet and sand-speckled swimsuits. The airy veranda where we would laze around on white canvas covered sofas and native wood recliners while the children played in the garden, a ton of nooks and crannies to explore. The long dining table where we had meals of grilled fish and pork belly al fresco. The white picket fence that opened up to a wide shore and an untamed sea. It was like another life, in another time…and perhaps it was.
And that sea, that sea so different from other seashores I had seen before (and we live on an archipelago so we have seen a lot). Wild and careless, waves crashing, and in their wake the strong pull of current, sucking at my feet as I stood entranced before it. It had a certain “edge of the world” feeling, so different from the mild, baby blue long shallows I was used to. I could stand there and watch it for hours (or what seemed like hours), this seemingly untameable beast/beauty. Something to be respected. A surfer’s sea I suppose. And me, not a surfer, but someone who easily falls under the spell of nature’s art. Which this certainly was.
And the people – the friendly, warm locals who were so welcoming. We came knowing nothing and no one but soon, even in our short time there, fell into their pleasant rhythm. Yummy meals at the colorful hostel next door, and drinks and casual music there one night. The sweet surfing instructors who taught Little C to surf (Yes!! Definitely a proud mommy moment!). Impromptu beers after coming in from the water. The children making new friends almost everywhere we went. The adorable coffee shop that we kept going back to…admittedly not just for the friendly staff or their excellent “dirty white” (espresso dripped over cold milk on ice…life changing in this heat!), but the divine indoor s’mores (a heap of chocolate and marshmallows melted and browned in the oven, serve with grahams to dip and dig into the blissfully molten mess). The kids loved it…sitting together on makeshift stools, sticky with sugar, leftover sunblock, and sweat, thinking of nothing but the next sweet mouthful. And me watching them, for once not letting my mind skip two or ten paces ahead, but instead thinking of nothing but the next sun-kissed moment.
- 500 grams peeled and de-veined large shrimp
- 1 teaspoon pimenton de La Vera
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon butter
- the juice of one lemon, divided
– Season the shrimps with pimenton, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
– Melt the 1/4 cup butter in a skillet over medium high heat.
– When the butter is sizzling add the garlic and sauté until fragrant but not brown.
– Add the shrimp and cook, a minute or so on each side, until just done. Do not over cook the shrimp or they will become tough.
– When the shrimp is done add the 1 tablespoon butter and toss until all the shrimp is glossy and slick. Remove from heat.
– Add half of the lemon juice, toss to mix thoroughly, and taste. If you feel it needs more lemon start adding the other half, tasting as you go. Season to taste with salt and pepper if you feel it needs it. Serve immediately.
This isn’t something we had on our trip to La Union but it’s definitely something that feels so summery to me. Plump shrimp cooked in butter and garlic, and spritzed with a bright note of lemon at the end. Light and sunny and centered on seafood. It’s also quick to make and enjoyed by most. Perfect to prepare on a beach weekend…or on a weekend you wish you were at the beach.
This would also be great with some chili flakes tossed in with the garlic, but I was feeding kids so I kept things non-fiery. I served this as an appetizer for a lunch at my mom’s and they were gone in 10 minutes. C never even got to try them! And the only reason I got a taste was because I snuck one shrimp while I was cooking.
Although I am back in the thrall of city life, its frenetic pace and hypnotic concrete towers reeling me in, as it always seems to do, the holiday’s faded glow still lingers on my shoulders. I sit working in my tiny corner, like a million tiny corners in this city, giving off a collective glow of a busy hive – and I once again realize how much I love, unashamedly love, the city…its tawdry glamour, its too-fast pace, its hundred and one things to do, its unrepentant grittiness. Even as my heart bursts at the sight of the sea and some part of me longs for wide-open spaces, the city still manages to lure my loyalties back with her honeyed whispers. Maybe one day I will be free of her. But until that day comes I am content to be her happy slave…with a few days off, once in a while, to play in the sea.
P.S. If you are planning a trip to San Juan, La Union don’t miss the coffee and s’mores at El Union and the grilled dorado, spicy crispy basil squid, and shrimp in tomato cream pasta at Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel. The little and big C took surfing lessons with the surf instructors in from on the Kahuna beach resort if you are so inclined. If not, drag a book to the shore and enjoy watching the surfers! If you are interested in the little house by the sea that we rented just let me know and I’ll send you the details.