Hiatus Activity

It’s been a busy few weeks.

The cats have helped me with my crosswords.

Cleo admired Fred’s latest painting.

Fred cooked supper, even involving vegetable matter in the process.

And we visited the family farm in Tennessee.


Posting will continue to be sporadic over the next few weeks, as we travel around the country for holidays. I’ve been cooking a lot and hope to share recipes for the holidays soon, but will certainly be back in January.

Return to Farming

Before I married Fred, I was an avid gardener. Unfortunately, I was not very good at it. Though I fantasized about pantry shelves lined with bright jars of home-canned produce, and snipping fresh herbs from my deck to toss into various dishes, my gardening efforts over two years yielded about 30 tomatoes, 2 mealy yellow squash, about ten pounds of rosemary, 3 tablespoons of parsley, 4 green beans, and possibly the tiniest piece of okra ever grown.

The problem was that while I liked to dig and put things in the ground, I didn’t like to plan. Thus I’d inevitably find myself in mid-May with a strong desire for home-grown vegetables in the summer, but I’d have no beds prepared and no real sense of where the plants might do well. So beds would hastily be dug in a spot that seemed sunny; a few bags of dirt from the garden store would be added; plants would  thrown in, watered, and randomly fertilized; mulch might be distributed. But I had no understanding of the soil and the nutrients that might be needed, or what plants should go together, or how to prevent disease.

This year, however, I’m turning a corner. My work at the St. John’s community garden has led to a resurgence of my gardening interest, and it has peaked at a time of year when the only thing you can do is plan. Thus I have familiarized myself with measuring tape, stakes, and gardening books to create a map for a converting our weedy yet sunless back yard into a cornucopia of home-grown, organic produce.

Last weekend, I took the first step, measuring out Bed 1, a 10′ x 3′ space right behind the house. The effort renewed long-dormant math skills that revealed that I’d have 30 square feet in which to plant my crops.

The area is typical of our back yard: a swath of unidentified weeds scattered with leaves. Daffodils appear in the spring, but the photo below reflects the state of the area for the remaining 11 months of the year.

I dug here industriously for about three hours, scraping down about 8″ until the crummy clay surface, and my back, could yield no more.

I removed the sod and weeds, added a little store-bought compost, covered everything with a layer of newspaper, then leaves.

I’m afraid that the only difference between the “before” and “after” photos is that the largest weed is gone and the leaves are in a more organized pile. But I am hopeful that the earth will go to work, and that next year, I might get enough tomatoes for at least one batch of salsa.

Everything’s Better with Bacon

A few weeks ago I went to the doctor for my sort-of-annual check-up. “Your cholesterol levels are amazing,” she raved. “Your overall number is a bit over 200, but it’s because your good cholesterol levels are so incredible. I just don’t see this very often.”

I felt as smug and self-satisfied as I did at age six when I was the first student in Mrs. Hyberger’s class who could read from the “Dear Cubby” page in the textbook. I hadn’t worked very hard to learn to read–it just happened. And certainly I haven’t worked very hard to lower my cholesterol levels. It’s just my natural ability, I thought. My innate talent. A special gift.

I’m celebrating by eating bacon. With my cholesterol levels, why should I worry about it? And it certainly keeps Fred happy. (Miraculously, his cholesterol levels are excellent too.)

The bacon has been a surprising boon to the the fish we’ve been getting from our CSF (community-sponsored fishery), which is in the middle of its fall season.



As usual, we’ve gotten some beautiful fish, but the flavor has been unexpectedly strong in some cases. There’s no funky smell, but when cooked the fish was briny and earthy all at once–in other words, too fishy even for my taste.

In desperation, I turned to some of the recipes provided by the fisheries themselves. I had my doubts about these recipes, which relied heavily on bacon and cream and baked the fish for what seemed like far too long. It didn’t make sense to me. Why smother fresh-caught fish with other flavors? But after trying to face down some of these powerful creatures with mere lemon juice and garlic, I’ve come to accept the wisdom of attacking them head-on with pork and cream. This technique mellows the pungent flavor of fishy fish without covering it up completely (though covering that flavor would be a miracle on par with Fred choosing to eat a salad over a steak).

It also turns out the somewhat longer cooking time is necessary when the fish is all together in a casserole dish–laid close together this way, the fish take a bit longer to heat up than they do when separated into individual pieces. Just be sure to check for doneness frequently to avoid overcooking.

Fish with Bacon, Onions, and Cream
Serves 4

1/2 – 2 lbs white fish (you can use fish that is headed and gutted but not filleted, but you will have to watch for bones)
6 slices bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
1 large onion, cut in half and sliced
Cream or half and half (enough to partially cover fish in when spread out in a casserole dish)
About 1 tbsp. sage (optional)
Chopped chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Generously salt and pepper fish and place in a casserole dish large enough to hold pieces without layering. Cut up bacon. Place in large skillet and fry on medium-high heat. Cut a large onion in half and then slice thinly. When bacon is cooked about halfway, scatter in onion and saute until translucent. Pour over fish. Pour a mix of cream and half and half, or just half and half, over fish until bottom of pan is covered and cream covers fish partway. (Unless you pour off the bacon fat, I suspect that using cream alone would make the dish too heavy.) Sprinkle sage over fish, if desired. Cover dish with lid or foil and bake until fish is tender, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the individual size of the fillets. Check frequently for doneness to make sure fish does not overcook.

Remove fish from oven. If fish is not filleted, remove the bones as best you can. To do this, gently scrape off the top layer of flesh with a large fork, then peel out the spine and ribs and discard. You won’t get all the bones, but you’ll reduce some of the hassle of removing them at the table. Plate fish and spoon generous amounts of sauce and onions over the top. Garnish with chives and serve.

My Recipe Redux: Rum Balls

On Sunday, our church service focused on forgiveness, and it made me realize that I have a long way to go. I’ve never recovered from being denied the role of Scarlett O’Hara in our grad school parody of Gone with the Wind (in which Scarlett would have done anything to get tenure). I still don’t understand why my fourth grade teacher liked LaVelda Blanton better than me, though it’s possible that her lack of seething resentment at others’ success had something to do with it. And, of course, there’s my irritation at the New York Times Magazine’s “Recipe Redux” column.

But now I have to consider that the Lord will forgive my trespasses only as I forgive those who trespass against me. I have some issues to work out with “Recipe Redux” now because I found myself updating a recipe this weekend in ways that would probably make the original author roll over in his grave. So Amanda Hesser, I hope you will overlook my nasty remarks about the Medjool date recipe and the snide comments about that laborious, incomprehensible twelve-ingredient dessert. I understand it all a little better now, and I’ll try to be nicer. Mostly. At some point.

It started with the bourbon balls. I write a column for a newsletter in my Atlanta neighborhood (we never managed to sell our house there), and this month I wanted to feature a recipe for a holiday treat given to me by an elderly Presbyterian minister a few years back. The column was due Friday, which means that first thing Saturday morning I wrote in to beg for an extension. Then I went to the kitchen.

But when I pulled out the bourbon ball recipe, I saw it wasn’t going to work. For one thing, it called for paraffin. Paraffin isn’t unusual for a chocolate recipe; it’s used to make it glossy and keep candies solid at room temperature. My grandmother used it to seal her jellies. But I didn’t like the idea of putting wax in my food. It seemed like cheating.

Plus I didn’t have any. I didn’t have semi-sweet chocolate chips either. Or bourbon. (At least, not bourbon I could pour into a bowl of chocolate without making Fred cry.)

What I did have was 5 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, rum, and a looming deadline. I rationalized the lack of semi-sweet chips and the addition of the cocoa powder by concluding that modern sensibilities lean toward less sugar and a more intense chocolate flavor. I also figured that the type of liquor wasn’t really important and that I now had an excellent opportunity to use what was not used in last Christmas’s rum cake.

But having spent quite a bit of time shopping recently for desserts, I was also intrigued by the idea of some of the flavors I’ve seen paired with chocolate, especially savory items like chili powder, bacon, and especially salt. Tempted as I was to try the bacon (and one day I will), I decided to take the safe route in my variation and dust the rum balls with a little salt.

This was a fortuitous choice. There’s something about the salt-chocolate combination that’s utterly addictive, (as anyone who’s eaten a chocolate-covered pretzel will tell you), and the increased proportion of chocolate to sugar provided the intensified chocolate flavor I hoped to achieve. These candies aren’t as rummy as some I’ve tried, but that’s really a bonus, allowing you to focus on the chocolate. Update December 2012: Not everyone likes the salt as much as I do. I’ve modified the recipe to account for that–and the unsalted version is probably better suited to more tastes.

The ingredients used weren’t even particularly good (months old Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, generic cocoa powder), but I was nevertheless pleased enough with the result that I’m going to make these for Christmas. Maybe I’ll even send some to Amanda Hesser.

Original Recipe: Bourbon Balls

This recipe was given to me by a Presbyterian minister in his 90s. I am certain that his regular consumption of bourbon and chocolate contributed to his long life and health.

1/4 pound butter
1 box powdered sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 square paraffin
2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 large package semisweet chocolate chips + 2 1/2 squares baking chocolate

Cream butter and sugar. Add bourbon and pecans. Shape into small balls put on waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Melt chocolate chips and baking chocolate; add paraffin. Dip balls into cooled chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.

Updated Recipe: Rum Balls

Makes about 50 1″ balls

5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted in small saucepan using lowest possible heat and set aside to cool
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)
½ lb. butter, softened
2 cups finely chopped nuts (pecans and/or walnuts)
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup creme de cacao (can probably substitute Kahlua)
2 tsp. high-quality salt, finely ground (optional)

In large bowl, sift together 3 cups of the sugar, 1 cup of the cocoa powder, and salt. Add to butter. With electric mixer or by hand, stir on low speed until butter is mixed in, then increase speed and mix until creamed. This may take several minutes. Stir in rum, nuts, and chocolate. Add 1 cup of confectioners sugar and mix until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. (Can be refrigerated for one day, but allow dough to soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes before shaping.)

Sift together salt (if using), remaining 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar. Shape dough into one inch balls. Roll into cocoa mixture and set on wax paper or in mini paper muffin cups. Allow to firm in refrigerator; transfer to container. Refrigerate if you will not be using for several days; otherwise can be stored at room temperature.

When You’re Down . . .

I’m just now returning to something resembling normalcy, after an unpleasant bug that kept me out of work for four days and cost an appalling $108 in antibiotics to cure. Fred was out of town leading an arts workshop, so I had only the cats to help out.

Thelma took care of the livestock . . .

. . . while Cleo and Catalina made sure I stayed warm.

Unfortunately their food preparation skills are somewhat limited, and the only thing they caught during the week offered little of nutritional value and even less in the way of presentation.

Needless to say I was thrilled to have Fred back, and look forward to returning to the kitchen this week.

Dear New York Times "Recipe Redux"

My short love affair with the “Recipe Redux” column in the New York Times Magazine came to an end on Sunday. Fascinated as I am with old recipes, I was thrilled to find a column that dug up ancient treasures like Chocolate Caramels (1881) and this 1904 bouillabaisse swimming in olive oil. The old recipe is followed by a modern update created by a chef, with only one rule, according to Amanda Hesser, the column’s author: “the chefs can improvise with flavors and techniques as much as they want, as long as they can later explain how they got from A to B.” Thus Chocolate Caramels have been transformed into Black-Sugar-Glazed Medjool Dates with Pecorino and Walnuts, while the bouillabaise becomes Olive-Oil Poached Cod with Saffron-Blood Orange Nage.

It’s not the painful inventory of each esoteric ingredient, or the exacting specifications that demonstrate you’re in the know (“dates” aren’t good enough anymore; only Medjool dates will do!), that pushed me over the edge. I’ve grown accustomed to that, since you can’t go to a bar without being forced to order not merely roast lamb but Happy Meadow Farms Lamb with Organic Creek Merlot Reduction and House-Grown Rosemary. And reading ingredients is fascinating to me.

What I can’t abide is “updating” that turns a perfect, simple recipe into a complicated production.

Things started to go downhill with June 6’s Rhubarb-Strawberry Mousse (1989). I’ll let the description of the modern version speak for itself:

As with many old desserts, the beauty of the dish is its simplicity. Yet without fail, whenever I’ve sent chefs a dessert recipe from the paper’s 159-year archive, they’ve found this very simplicity troubling. Modern desserts seem to require acid playing against sweetness, crunch jarring the suppleness, bitter challenging creaminess — a flood of contrasting elements that manage to divert our 140-character-length attention span, even if just for a fleeting moment.

So it was no surprise that after making this six-ingredient mousse, Melissa Perello, the chef and owner of Frances in San Francisco, returned with a modern, layered delight: a 12-ingredient, three-part dessert, made up of a ricotta mousse, a strawberry-rhubarb broth, garnish and cookies

Why? Why? Why take a dish whose beauty is in its simplicity and turn it into a “12-ingredient, three-part” monstrosity? It’s one thing if you’re a chef trying to woo customers. It’s an entirely different matter if you’re a home cook trying to put a meal on the table or host a dinner party after work.

Last week’s Saratoga Potatoes (1904) were the end. Saratoga Potatoes are potato chips. (Who knew that’s where they came from?) For the basic recipe, you slice potatoes as thinly as possible, fry in olive oil, and salt. That’s it.

We are told that the updated version, Crackery Potato Bugnes, are “so easy to make and . . . turn out so professionally that you’ll soon be whipping them up for every dinner party.” My version of “easy,” however, does not involve two bowls, chilling dough “for at least one hour and as long as overnight” and . . . well, this:

Using a ruler and a pastry wheel (one with a zigzag edge is nice for this job) or pizza cutter, cut long strips 1 to 1½ inches wide, then cut the strips at 2-inch intervals. (Again, size isn’t really important and the shape is flexible — you can make long strips, triangles or squares.) Using the tip of a paring knife, cut a lengthwise slit about ¾ inch long in the center of each piece. Lift the pieces onto the baking sheet. When you’ve filled the sheet, just cover the dough with another piece of wax paper and keep going. Roll and cut the other half of the dough and place these pieces on the baking sheet as well, separating the layers with wax paper. You should have about 60 bugnes. Chill for at least 1 hour or for as long as overnight.

I won’t be spending two hours chilling and God only knows how many agonizing minutes cutting up 60 slices of dough into cute little shapes for my next dinner party unless a fairy brings me a maid with far more patience and time than I possess.

Ms. Hesser needs to send those recipes to me. As God is my witness she will get an updated version for those potato chips: Britt Farms Yukon Golds Fried in Real North Carolina Pork Fat with Roasted Garden Jalapenos and Garlic.

Hmmm–I need to work on that . . .

Green Tomato Salsa

Earlier this summer, I described the avalanche of  produce that nearly overwhelmed the tiny congregation of St. John’s Presbyterian Church, where Fred serves as a parish associate for the arts and I now serve on the garden committee. God was blessing our efforts. He (or She) was returning me to my farming roots, though it would have been nice if He (or She) had not caused me to look quite so much like an ancient mountain woman in the process.

But now He (or She) has decided to bless us with weeks of bright sunny days without a rain cloud in sight. We were also blessed with an abundance of tomato plants along with a generous helping of ignorance. Thus, close planting, a failure to prune, and the lack of rain all combined to produce plants that eked out only green tomatoes, which brooded on the vines until, depressed by their own failure to ripen, they flung themselves to the ground and rotted in despair.

Next door, however, the peppers were having quite the merry fiesta. They lived in a flourishing village that basked in the sun and was clearly up to something in the evenings, judging by the abundance of baby peppers that popped up with alarming regularity. (The proximity to all this merriment probably contributed to the tomatoes’ demise.)

What were we to do? Earlier in the summer we’d dreamed of tomato sandwiches, of winter shelves lined with rows of home-canned summer tomatoes, of freezers packed with homemade tomato sauce. But our hopes were dashed along with those of the pitiful green tomatoes who could not bring themselves to turn red.

I found a solution recently in this salsa, just in time for the green tomatoes that other gardeners with happier plants will soon be harvesting. It’s roughly based on a tomatillo recipe from Rick Bayless’s Salsa That Cook. While I’m not sure about the wisdom of substituting tomatillos for green tomatoes regularly, it worked quite well here. The salsa packs quite a bit of heat, but you can adjust that by using fewer peppers.

After one day, the brightness and the heat of the salsa had mellowed and the roasted flavor came to the forefront. If you want the salsa hot, I recommend serving it the same day; if you’d prefer a more mellow version, wait 24 hours before serving.

The salsa is wonderful with fish or shrimp as well–a serving suggestion is below. I can only hope the little green tomatoes have found their purpose in life now.

Green Tomato Salsa

Makes about 4 cups

A dozen small green or partially red tomatoes
6 serrano or other hot green peppers (more or less to taste)
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
Kosher salt
Sugar (about 1 tsp., or more to taste)
Cream, sour cream, or any kind of South American cream (Mexican, Honduran, Salvadoran) (optional)

Place oven rack about four inches below the broiler flame. (For me, this is the second slot from the top–do not place too close to the heat.) Set tomatoes on baking sheet. Roast with broiler on high about six minutes on one side, then turn and roast for an additional six minutes. The tomatoes will be dark brown to black. Set aside to cool, about 20 minutes.

While tomatoes are roasting, place a sturdy skillet on a medium high flame (no oil). Remove stems from the peppers. Place peppers in skillet and roast until blackened in spots, about 10 minutes.

Cut up onion while peppers are roasting and set aside. Once tomatoes are done, remove them to a bowl. Lower oven rack to the middle level. Set oven temperature to 425. (It should already be preheated from broiling the tomatoes.) Scatter the onions over the baking sheet (no need to wash it) and bake, stirring every few minutes, until translucent and blackened or dark brown in spots, 10 – 15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place whole peppers and onions in food processor and pulse, scraping down sides of bowl regularly, until ingredients are minced. Add whole tomatoes (peels, cores, and all) and pulse until finely chopped. (Add water if it is too thick.) Add plenty of salt and sugar to taste. Serve immediately with chips for a very hot salsa or wait 24 hours for a more mellow version. Add cream if desired–it will mitigate the heat.

Shrimp Tortillas with Green Tomato Salsa

Serves 2 — a good way to use the extra salsa!

16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. olive oil
2 – 3 cups Green Tomato Salsa, above
3 – 6 tbps. half and half
Grated mild cheese to taste (we used plain old cheddar, but Mexican queso seco might be better)
6 small corn tortillas

Heat oven to 350. Place tortillas on baking sheet and set in oven to warm. (You will need to check on them frequently to make sure they don’t crisp up–once they are warm and soft, turn off oven and let them sit.) Heat olive oil on medium high heat for a few minutes. Add salsa and cream. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. (Add more cream if it looks like it might burn.) Add shrimp and cook just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until shrimp have just pinkened, adding more cream if necessary. Remove tortillas from oven. Spoon shrimp mix into tortillas, top with spinach and cheese, fold over, and serve.

Concord Grape Pie

In the spring of 1991, my reputation as a pie baker was born, emerging out of a strawberry-rhubarb pie I made for my roommate, Carol.

Until that point, Carol believed that pie crusts were available only in the freezer section of  your local supermarket. Though her parents were both French, living in Wisconsin had apparently sapped away every vestige of their culinary heritage, leaving them only with the knowledge of how to brew coffee and cook sausage. I, on the other hand, took great pride in my crusts and my recipe, taken straight from the back of the Crisco can.

The strawberry-rhubarb pie, made from ingredients picked up at the legendary Madison Farmers’ Market, was apparently a revelation to Carol. It seemed a bit on the watery side to me, but she talked about it non-stop for nearly a week. “That was the best pie I’ve ever had,” she said. Twin Peaks was running at the time; she sounded like Agent Cooper at the counter of the R & R Diner.

So thrilled was she that she gave me this copy of Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook as a birthday present that year.

Written in 1965, this book chronicles a lifestyle that was already under siege by the agricultural industrial complex the moment it hit the shelves. I know this; I was born on a farm in 1965, and by the time I was in kindergarten my life was considered so exotic that it was turned into a field trip for my class. Thus a herd of five-year-olds was shepherded from the safety of suburbia to our farm, just a few miles outside the “city” of Cleveland, Tennessee. They looked at cows. They wisely ran in fear from the chickens. They stepped in little piles of manure dotting the fields and probably littered the freshly mopped floors of their homes with fecal matter within hours.

But I digress. I love the way that Farm Journal’s Pie Cookbook evokes a fantasy farm life, where green fields stretch out into the summer evening while swallows twitter overhead. Some samples:

“Peach pie is a reward tired and hungry men who have worked late in the field trying to finish a job really appreciate,” one farm woman says.  

Early summer mornings,  when the air’s still dewy, farm children gather ripe, juicy berries for Mother’s superb pies.

We certainly had moments like this on our farm. But we also had these:

Farm women think canning beans in August is about as much fun as a colonoscopy, but they know that both things need to be done.

Farmers are the kind of people for whom “vacation” means waiting till the next day to fix the tractor.

The book also contains recipes for pies that never appeared on our table–not surprising, given regional differences in American cuisine. Of course, I was drawn first to these more exotic pies (at least to me)–elderberry, currant, mulberry. One of these, Concord Grape Pie, has become a fall favorite. The filling reminded me of the juice and jams Mammaw made a few times from the grapes in our orchard. Just imagine the best homemade grape jam you’ve ever had, a grape jam with rich earthy undertones that’s not overly sweet–then you’ll have an idea of how this pie tastes.

Greed prevented us from getting a better photo. 
By the time I thought to get the camera, this was all that was left.

When the grapes come in this fall (September and October), you have only a few weeks to make this pie. It’s like those farms in 1965–their time on this earth is, sadly, too short.  

Concord Grape Pie

Unbaked 9″ pie shell
4 1/2 c. Concord grapes
1 c. sugar, or less to taste
1/4 c. flour
2 – 3 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt

Wash grapes and remove skins by pinching at end opposite stems. Reserve skins.

Place pulp in saucepan and bring to a boil; cook a few minutes until pulp is soft. Put through strainer or food mill, while pulp is hot, to remove seeds.

Mix strained pulp with skins. Stir in sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.

Place grape mixture in pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with crust, cut vents, dust sugar on top, and flute edges. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook an additional 50 – 60 minutes.

Shrimp, Corn, and Squash Soup

Nothing makes me crabbier than fall. That cheerfully crisp weather, that can-do spirit that forces you off the porch and into some useful activity–it’s all too horrible to contemplate for very long.

This year, though, good news has buoyed me up, helping me to face fall’s dreadful enthusiasm with a sense of hope: The Louisiana shrimpers are headed out into the Gulf again.

For me, the Gulf oil spill has loomed all summer like . . . well, like the black oily cloud it is, seeping into the fragile marshes, threatening the livelihoods of shrimpers and fishermen even more than cheap seafood from China, oozing into delicate marine life and causing damage we may not fully realize for years. Still, earlier this week the shrimpers were out on the water again. They didn’t catch much. But there’s a little hope.

To celebrate, I’m offering this soup recipe that I developed at the beach, using these gorgeous shrimp from the North Carolina coast, caught the same day they were served. Fred’s little camera doesn’t begin to do them justice.

This dish is a lot less complicated than it looks. If you can boil water, you can make the shrimp stock, and it cooks while you prepare the other ingredients. Besides, there’s almost no way to mess up the combination of fresh corn, squash, and shrimp–a hearty yet delicately flavored combination that may well be the perfect summer dish, just in time for summer to end.

You can, of course, cheat by using frozen shrimp and corn and substituting water or chicken broth for the shrimp stock. But you’ll regret it. And you need to help the shrimpers get back out there.

Shrimp, Corn and Squash Soup

Serves 6

Kernels from 6 shucked ears of fresh sweet corn (do not substitute frozen)
6 small to medium yellow crookneck squash, quartered lengthwise and sliced (may substitute 1 – 2 small zucchini for 1 – 2 of the squash for added color)
2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh jalapenos, minced (optional)
1 lb. large fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into 3 pieces each; shrimp peels and tails set aside in bowl
1 15 oz. can evaporated milk
Salt to taste

Begin by making the shrimp stock. Place shrimp peels and tails in medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Drain stock into bowl, discard peels and tails, and set aside.

While stock is boiling, sauté onion in olive oil in large pot on medium high heat until translucent. Add garlic and jalapenos and stir. Add squash and sauté until tender, about 5 – 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Pulse in food processor until very finely chopped. Return to pot. Add corn. Cover with shrimp stock and increase heat to high; add water just to cover if there is not enough stock. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium low. Add evaporated milk, cover, and simmer until corn is tender. Cooking times can vary significantly depending on the type of corn you use, anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes; taste periodically until the corn is tender but not starchy. When corn is cooked, reduce heat to lowest possible flame. Add shrimp and cover; cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are cooked.