Writing and Cooking Amid the Cedars

The writing is slow, the writing is fast. The writing takes the time it was meant to take. The writing does not respond to: This is the only time there is, or, I need to get something written so I can go swimming. The writing takes its own sweet damn time.

But here, where I am, there is time, and I feel the fullness of it, every day.

I’m on Gambier Island again, my quiet refuge amid the cedars. There are 140 permanent residents on this island, and no car ferry, (you have to bring your car in on a barge if you need one), just a small boat for walk-on passengers lugging all manner of carts and wheely devices.

So everyone knows everyone else and no doubt they now know about me, the writer girl staying in L’s place, and they’re kind, and only slightly curious. Are. You. The. One. Who. Wrote. The. Cookbook. asks Margaret, owner of the island’s only B&B, leaning out the window of her dusty old car. Food Memoir. I say, and then, Yes. That’s. Me. .

She tells me she liked it, I tell her I’m writing a sequel. Great. I’ll. Buy. It. she says briskly in her crisp British accent and zooms up the hill. She’s offered me a ride but I’m already committed to the first person who offered, and as I head to her car, lugging my groceries, three other people offer to drive me to my cabin.

That’s the kind of place it is.

The heat has slammed this island, just as it has the Lower Mainland, so I’m cooking and baking irregularly. But a visit from The Blue-Eyed Stranger inspired a mouth-puckeringly sour apricot galette (not quite in season: we slathered it with whipped cream), and my romance with shrimps and prawns continues.

Last week I bough $6 worth of tiger prawns from the fish store in Gibson’s and fried them up my favourite way with cherry tomatoes, garlic and lemon. But on the weekend we got all fancy with fresh side stripe shrimp, making a luscious pasta sauce with them, recipe below.

We ate that pasta so fast and so reverently, no one even thought to take a photo.

Pasta with Shrimp and Creamy Tomato Sauce
(Adapted from Gourmet.com)

The addition of the sweet vermouth here punctuates the natural sweetness of the canned tomatoes, making this quick sauce taste as if it’s been simmered for hours.

* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 lb peeled large shrimp
* 3 large garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
* 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 cup sweet (red) vermouth
* 1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
* 3/4 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 lb pasta (I used linguini)

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook shrimp and garlic with oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes total. Stir in vermouth and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet. Add cream and briskly simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta.

Serve immediately, topped with shrimp and sauce. Thin with some of reserved water if necessary.

One Comment

  1. Ten years ago this July, the Hair Dude hooked me with jumbo prawns in white wine sauce on angel hair…home cookin out on a grassy terrace. I have never regretted accepting that invitation.

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