I have been living in the Big Apple for over a year now and I am still not sure where I fall on the love-hate scale. Take this weekend, for example. I was heading to Baltimore, my college town, to visit some friends.
I left the office Friday afternoon and popped into Trader Joe’s to grab some fuel for the road trip. One does not just pop into a place like Trader Joe’s, Fairway, or Whole Foods in New York. Navigating an overcrowded store with a cart is almost as terrible as holding your heavy groceries in a basket while you wait out the twenty minute checkout line (although I respect the color-coded checkout line televisions at Whole Foods – very impressive). Grocery shopping used to be a time to decompress…oh how I long for the slow pace of suburban stores.
Enter Baltimore: my friend’s incredibly spacious, renovated, three-story townhouse (rent is $200 less than I pay for my studio), a reservation-free and wait-free brunch, a cheap MLB game at Camden Yards. By the time Sunday rolled around I was having trouble remembering why anyone would put up with New York.
Back in the city, I dropped my bags off at my apartment on 65th and wandered up Columbus in search of some ingredients for the week ahead. The temperature was ripe for sweater season and the cool air mixed with the smells from each outdoor cafe I passed: Japanese, Italian, Magnolia Bakery. It was finally that time of year, the sweet spot between September and November when the city becomes the one I dreamt of after watching You’ve Got Mail. I stopped to get a $20 bill at the ATM and spent a fraction of it on a heaping bag of produce from the fruit and veggie man on the corner. At home, I cracked my windows and listened to the city streets as I cooked.
I could write endless love notes to this city and I could absolutely produce some hate mail. I guess that’s how life works. For now I will keep making my work lunches, this one costing a measly $10 for the week ($4 without the shrimp) so that this weekend I can splurge on one of hundreds of great restaurants and spend $18 on a ticket to the movies. I guess I can deal with an overcrowded Trader Joe’s…as long as I still get to make small talk with the veggie man on 68th.
2 large zucchini (1 zucchini will make enough for 1-2 meals)
1 large avocado
1/2 pound of uncooked shrimp (peeled and de-veined)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika
Clean the zucchini and chop off the stem. Use a spiralizer or any other “noodle-maker” to produce a large bowl of noodles from both zucchinis. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine the meat of the avocado, the jalapeno (I washed it and chopped off the stem, cutting it into chunks and leaving the seeds in for extra spice – if you’re not into spice, try subbing fresh basil for a bit of flavor). Add a tablespoon of olive oil and squeeze the juice of one lemon in. Blend on high until the consistency reaches a smoothie-like texture. If you need more liquid, add a tablespoon of water. Shake in some salt and pepper to taste, blend once more, and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine a tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and a few shakes of salt and pepper. Place the raw shrimp in a larger bowl and pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of your other lemon, and all of the spices. Mix thoroughly until the shrimp are evenly coated and place each piece in a saute pan on medium heat. Cook the shrimp until there are no gray and translucent pieces left, for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat. Set aside.
Toss the zucchini noodles with your avocado dressing and place your shrimp on top. If you would prefer warm noodles, you can cook them briefly in a pot by stirring constantly over medium heat, just don’t let them loose their crispness!