The dog, Bobo, and I like to take walks in the morning and evening. It helps clear my head, providing a time to sort through the day, and ideally clear the way for some meditation.
Often we walk along the banks of Walnut Creek, where I’ve watched it change through the seasons of rushing fall waters, frozen winter fury, to spring brown turmoil to an summer clarity. Indeed, the water is so clear I can see the fish gathering in the pools under the small waterfall. I watched as fishermen literally cast into dozens of fish, which, unfortunately for the fishermen, were not biting.
This is when the details of everyday life slip away and my mind is clear enough to allow some creativity to take hold.
I imagined the case at Urbaniak Brothers, a butcher on Erie’s east side, that had been filled with shrimp. And I recalled a delicious risotto I had at Peppino’s Chop House. And I wanted red curry. They all needed to come together into a single dish.
And that is how we came to have grilled shrimp over red curry risotto. The other twist is that my daughter doesn’t like rice and I don’t like to spend the time standing over the stove cooking risotto. I’d saved several recipes that used orzo in “risotto” into my New York Times Cooking app, so those became the framework for the dish, which takes about 15 minutes.
I used whole wheat orzo that I found at Giant Eagle. Typically I don’t like the texture of whole wheat pasta, but this holds up to the cooking and the strong flavors. Most importantly, it tastes great.
Grilled Shrimp with Red Curry Coconut Risotto
1 pound peeled shrimp (I prefer wild-caught Gulf or Florida shrimp)
2 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sweet white onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 cup whole wheat orzo
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) soy sauce
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 lime, halved
In a zip-top baggie, combine 1/2 cup coconut milk, 2 teaspoons red curry past, fish sauce and brown sugar. Marinate while you light the fire or prepare the gas grill.
While the fire is getting ready, add olive oil to a medium-sized saute pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper and saute until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add orzo and cook until slightly toasted. Add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and stir until the orzo has soaked it up, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup and stir until nearly absorbed, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of the red curry paste and the chicken broth. Simmer over low heat until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Squeeze half lime over top and add soy sauce. Stir in 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Set aside.
Skewer shrimp and grill until cooked through, depending on the heat of your grill this will take 2 to 4 minutes. You want them just pink and opaque – they will continue cooking with residual heat once you take them off the grill.
Plate the orzo and top with grilled shrimp. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Squeeze the other half of the lime over the dishes.