I love Marcella's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and if I could only have one cookbook, this would probably be it. But that would be if I were living in a place where I could get wonderful Italian ingredients (as I do now), not if a cookbook had to be everything. By everything I mean a book to cook from and a book to read. One of my favorite cookbooks is The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. It has deliriously good recipes with superb instructions, giving excellent results if followed with a purpose. And it's a fabulous read. Just fabulous. But if I were hard pressed, I mean really hard pressed, to have only one book in the world - to cook from and to read and to look at and to hold - it just might be How to Eat by Nigella Lawson. I love this book for the deliciousness of the food, for the sense memories it brings back to me as a child spending so much time in England, and for the precision of the descriptions and lavishness (not opulence) of what Nigella eats. I've said before, if she invited me over for a nosh, no matter what time, no matter where, I would make it my business to get there lickety-split.
This is a recipe that is so much fun to make if you have a really good friend over, and you're hanging around the kitchen quaffing down light white wine (think vinho verde, which you want to drink very young so look on the back for the little label with a date, which should only be one year behind where you are) or a couple of cold light beers, or (why not?) your favorite Champagne, and you want something yummy - really, really yummy - to munch on. If you try these little shrimp cakes, you will come up with what you think are good accompaniments, which of course, will depend on what your particular eating preferences are, but I think a tart green salad to pick at with your fingers while you dip these little puppies in your choice of a mayonnaise-y accompaniment as fast as they they come hot out of the frying pan (just don't fight over them) and pop in your mouth would be good.
Dedicated to Mandi and Scotty Bennett because I know they will just love it!
1/2 pound shrimp, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, white and green parts, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons dry sherry
Put the shrimp, garlic, scallions, salt, flour, sherry, and enough water to make a thick batter in a food processor. Turn the machine on, and process until a thick batter is formed. Put the batter into another bowl (don't let it hang around in the plastic bowl of the food processor), and let stand, covered with plastic film, for one hour. Put the peanut oil to a depth of 2 inches in a pan, heat, then drop in the shrimp batter by the teaspoonfuls, and fry until golden brown, about a minute on each side. Drain on paper towels.
Make homemade mayonnaise, omitting the dijon mustard, and substituting lime juice for the lemon and adding a handful of fresh chopped cilantro at the end. If you don't feel like making your own mayo, add lime juice and chopped cilantro to your favorite store-bought mayo. It won't be as good, but it will be good enough, because these delicious morsels can carry the day. If too exhausted even for that, just squeeze fresh lime juice on them, and carry on.