Killer Shrimp – A Love Story

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dinner, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Pop Culture, Recipes, Savories

Original Killer Shrimp menu.

Shrimp and bread, shrimp and rice, shrimp and pasta. Along with sweet potato pecan pie, those were the only items on the menu at Killer Shrimp, a restaurant that opened over 20 years ago in Marina del Rey, CA. The shrimp was thrown, to order, into a spicy sauce that the restaurant says is simmered for 10 hours, and comes with fresh French bread to dip into the magical elixir. To say this dish is thrilling is no exaggeration.

I lived in the San Fernando Valley and would often make the hour-long drive to eat at this punk rock homage to shrimp. The restaurant in the Marina was on the 2nd floor of an ugly 1980’s mini mall, but inside it was dark and cool and they played rad music—the kind you played in your room on vinyl after riffing through the import section at Moby Disc. No one played music like this in restaurants back in those days. Then again, no restaurant had only three things on the menu either. Killer Shrimp was more like a club than a restaurant. We even waited in line to get in. It felt a little dangerous, but exciting. Kind of like the way it felt to go to Melrose Ave. in the early ’80s when it really WAS wild to see someone with pink hair and a nose ring.

The original Killer Shrimp in Marina del Rey, CA.

Then, as if my dreams became real, they opened a Killer Shrimp in the Valley. The Valley restaurant was also very dark, but much bigger, and all the servers could have been in fashion spreads for The Face. They all wore black and, according to my friend Christy who worked there, the girls were required to wear Viva Glam red lipstick from MAC (the very first Viva Glam). It was a microcosm of cool in the Valley that hadn’t existed before or since. What all self-consciously cool restaurants these days aspire to be, Killer Shrimp simply was.

Even though there were three items on the menu, the ONLY acceptable order was shrimp and bread. Seeing the oversized bowl before you—hot, scented with rosemary and cayenne, and swimming with colossal-sized shrimp—was, in a word, exquisite. The bread that accompanied the shrimp was fresh and chewy and perfectly soaked up the sauce without becoming soggy, but we have to talk about this sauce for a minute.

The flavor was so complex, with layers of richness and spiciness and herbiness…you would have to resist the bowl-licking urge with all of your might. There are many ingredients in the sauce, including butter (a lot of butter—just deal with it), Worcestershire, lemon juice, and beer, but even though the restaurant simmers their sauce for 10 hours, you can whip this recipe up in about 15 minutes with the same glorious results. I truly cannot overstate the majesty of this dish. It makes every annoyance in life tolerable. It makes me believe in a Higher Power. It proves, without a doubt, that food is more than fuel. It is the meaning of life in a bowl.

Killer Shrimp eventually closed all of its restaurants. There was a hole in my heart the size of a giant crustacean. I searched many times online for the recipe to no avail. Several years ago, they opened a new Killer Shrimp back in Marina Del Rey, but it is not the same. It’s more of a sports bar with a huge menu and no MAC red lipstick in sight. I can’t go there. Then, one day, my sister-in-law Stacey invited my husband and me over for dinner. She had found a recipe online claiming to be as good as Killer Shrimp and was going to make it for us. I was excited, but I didn’t have much hope that it would come close to the singular deliciousness of the original. Luckily, I was wrong. It tasted, well, KILLER.

And now, for those of you that have missed Killer Shrimp for all of these years, the recipe is now yours. And for those who have never tried it, I wish I could be with each and every one of you as you taste your first bite. Maybe when your mouth explodes with fireworks of pure umami and your brain recognizes the profoundness of the moment, you will think of me.

I may just have a tube of the original Viva Glam lipstick still in my makeup bag. I’m going to turn off all the lights, blast The Clash (on import vinyl) and and serve my husband some shrimp—dressed all in black, of course—and pretend that all is right with the world.


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KILLER SHRIMP

Adapted from a recipe found on the Internet many years ago
Serves 2 (can be doubled)

¼ lb. plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1½ tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper (can be doubled if you like it really spicy)
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dried rosemary
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 lb. colossal shrimp in the shell (known as Original), or peeled and deveined
½ cup shrimp, chicken, or vegetable stock
¼ cup beer at room temperature
French baguette

Combine ¼ lb. butter, garlic, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and dried herbs in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for about 4-5 minutes to soften garlic, but be very careful not to brown or burn garlic and butter. Add shrimp and cook about two minutes (it is important not to overcook the shrimp in this dish). Add the last 2 Tbsp. butter and stock. Shake pan back and forth for two minutes. DO NOT STIR, only shake skillet, which breaks down the butter and liquid and emulsifies the sauce. Add beer and cook for one minute more, until shrimp are just cooked through.

Pour into two large bowls and serve sliced baguette on the side.

Cue The Clash and shove your face in that bowl.

You’re welcome.

 

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If Once You Have Slept on an Island

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dinner, Food, Food & Drink, Inspiration, Recipes, Savories, Travel

If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same.
— Rachel Lyman Field

Eagle Island 1

The first time I stepped foot on Eagle Island, it was so foggy I could only see a few steps in front of me. My boyfriend (now husband) Aaron had been telling me about this island since we met—his most special place, his Disneyland, his Paris. We had traveled by plane, car and boat to get there. I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me, but the moment I stepped foot onto the shore, I understood that I was in a rare and magical place.

Eagle Island 2Eagle Island is only about a mile-and-a-half long by half-a-mile wide, but there are so many self-contained universes. There is a farmhouse in the middle of a big meadow, which is the hub of the island; a forest that has mysterious fairy bowers hidden throughout the trees, which no one lays claim to; an old schoolhouse from the 1800s that has not been touched inside for more than half a century; a small, but beautiful, cemetery; a lighthouse; a tiny post office; and a handful of gasp-inducing beaches so cinematic that they make you want to spontaneously burst into a rousing sea shanty.

Eagle Island 3The quiet splendor of this island rivals any great city I’ve ever been to, but what makes Eagle Island so special is that you feel like it belongs to you. You have to try hard to come in contact with other people here, so you can have the rare experience of not battling crowds, not angling for a better view or a perfect spot on the beach. You can just be still. You can listen to the sounds of insects buzzing. You can smell the ocean and feel the breeze on your skin. It’s not often we can be truly alone in beauty, and the island is restorative in ways other places can never be. The island belongs to you and you belong to it, and it’s a relationship you don’t take lightly. You want to nestle into her and whisper, “Your song is heard. Your people are dear to me, too. I will keep your secrets.”

Eagle Island 4Only a handful of people own cottages on the island, but there are many cottages of all different sizes that are available for rent. There is the Doll House, which is adorably tiny, all the way up to the Hill House, which has six bedrooms. The cottages have a cozy, vintage vibe that you usually only see in magazines meticulously curated by a dozen city people who may never have even been to an island. Treena and Krista are your island hostesses, and their bohemian loveliness is sprinkled over everything.

Eagle Island 5Aaron and I were able to spend a week on Eagle in August and we had, as always, the most wonderful time. The first several days were foggy, but warm, and the mist gave the island a dreamy New England feel. Then the weather changed and everything was sun-dappled and beautiful with seagulls singing in the sky and sailboats gliding through the sea. It’s hard to believe, but on an island with so few people, we had a very active social calendar. We had friends over for dinner, ate fresh lobster caught that day, and ended the evening with a sing-along. On another night, we went to Krista’s cabin for dinner and watched one of the best sunsets I have ever seen. Another night was a surprise cocktail party for Aaron’s moms’ anniversary. We were also invited to a lovely brunch, took long walks followed by long naps, had an impromptu lunch at the farmhouse where Krista whipped up the most delicious pasta with kale picked from the garden, read, and even made a short horror movie. We did everything and nothing and every second was grand.

Eagle Island 6

Several years ago, after visiting the island for more than 25 years, Aaron’s moms built a cottage on the island. Actually, they call it a cabbage—part cabin, part cottage. It’s warm and inviting and filled with laughter and music and has the most glorious view of the ocean. I love to sit out on the deck with the family, talking, drinking wine and watching the sunset. Even as we chat about this or that, we are each in the moment, recognizing the specialness of where we are, knowing how lucky we are to be able to sleep on an island—Eagle Island—and aware that none of us will ever be the same.

Eagle Island 7
KRISTA’S EAGLE ISLAND KALE PASTA

INGREDIENTS
I lb. penne pasta
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
2 bunches kale, cut from the ribs and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup salty, pitted green olives
2 Tbsp. capers, drained
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
4 Tbsp. (or to taste) Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (you can substitute soy sauce)
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, torn
salt and pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium low heat. Add kale and garlic and sauté until kale is soft, making sure not to brown garlic, about 7-10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium, add cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, red pepper flakes (if using) and Bragg’s Aminos and sauté 5 more minutes, until tomatoes are soft and heated through. Stir in basil and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook penne in lots of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add kale mixture and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan and serve. Makes 6 servings.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
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Eagle Island

 

If you’d like to rent a cabin on beautiful Eagle Island, please contact Treena and Krista at Eagle Island Rentals.

 

Margie’s Quinoa – This Recipe Will Change Your Life!

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dinner, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Wellness

Margie's Quinoa 1I’ve never been a huge quinoa fan. Let’s just get that out on the table now. I don’t hate it, but I don’t crave it, I don’t order it, and I don’t cook with it. I like lots of other healthy grains like farro, lentils, and bulgur, but quinoa has a funky texture and, like tofu (which I am also not a big fan of), you need to add a lot of flavor to make it taste good. So when my friend Margie told me that she and her husband ate quinoa every week, Monday through Thursday, I was shocked. But also fascinated (and a little obsessed).

I know this is a blog about stuff to swoon over—don’t be fooled, this story has a fairytale ending—but before quinoa had me in her thrall, I was a disbeliever.

When Margie first told me about her quinoa regimen, I thought she made a different recipe every week. I even started sending her quinoa recipes I came across, but she makes the same one. Every week. Being the kind of person who loves variety so much I don’t even like leftovers, I was curious about why she and her husband Michael committed to this way of eating. I interviewed Margie exclusively for The Swoon Society:

What made you decide to be so structured with your weekday eating?
We structured our weekly meals mainly because my husband had gained 20+ lbs from our cooking and wine drinking every night of the week. He decided the way to combat this problem was to rely on the Catholic method of living…sin and repent!

He thought if he could eat moderately during the week, he could indulge himself on the weekends, and it should all balance out. He also gave up drinking alcohol Mon-Thurs. Once I saw how much easier it was to eat the same thing every night and not have to worry about what I was going to make for dinner every night or make daily trips to the market, I got on board with the process.

Do you ever get sick of eating the same thing 4 days a week?
We eat this dish Mon-Thurs, and have been doing so for several years. Of course we get tired of eating it sometimes. We take a break if our schedule is such that we won’t be home to eat the dish at least three days during the week. When we go on vacation, we don’t watch what we eat. By the end of every trip, we always say we can’t wait to get back to eating quinoa! We never feel overly full when we eat it or go to bed on a full stomach.

Do you ever vary the recipe?
The recipe has evolved over the years, mostly in terms of which vegetables we use. We switch off between the three Trader Joe’s simmer sauces from time to time.

Do you think it has had an impact on weight loss?
For my husband, who has a tendency to overeat, it has been very impactful to structure our diet this way. It’s very easy to see where you are overeating or where to cut calories when your diet is so structured. This method of eating also has a huge impact on time. It’s shocking how much time you have for yourself when you don’t have to cook dinner and clean up afterwards. Evenings become a time to relax or a productive time doing other things. It might even get you to bed earlier, which will have a positive impact on how much sleep you get. Nothing bad comes to those who eat the same thing for dinner every night!

Where did you get the recipe?
The original dish was a brown rice and black bean base. Once quinoa started to become popular, I switched to it and began messing around with the recipe. My goal was to keep it as simple as possible and to have all the ingredients come from Trader Joe’s. Their pre-cut veggie options are convenient and plentiful. But, of course, you can use any veggies you like.

I started telling other friends about Margie’s diet and, invariably, they would become intrigued and ask for the recipe. I thought all the reasons Margie ate this way were valid and, if I was going to write about it for the blog, I should try it myself. My husband was game. I went to Trader Joe’s with my list and made my first batch.

Margie's Quinoa 2There are many great things about this recipe. One is that everything IS available from Trader Joe’s. I’m used to going to about three different stores to get ingredients I need for the week, so already I was pretty excited. The second great thing is that it’s very quick and easy to prepare. I don’t have a Crock-Pot, so I just put everything in a big pot and cooked it until the veggies were done. The third, and most remarkable thing about this dish, is that it is delicious! My husband and I were both surprised. It does not feel like we are compromising, especially with the addition of avocado, a splash of Tabasco, and occasionally some light sour cream. I actually look forward to eating it each night. And, it has practically no fat! Of course, the avocado adds fat, but as we know, it’s the GOOD fat, so it doesn’t count. This, on top of no cooking and no clean up, makes Margie’s recipe something to definitely swoon over!

We have tried this for two weeks and are going into our third. We talked about adding some grilled shrimp this week. Also, I added garbanzo beans and fresh corn to the mix – it’s wonderfully customizable to what’s fresh at the farmer’s market or easily available at good old Trader Joe’s. Last week I was in Vegas for a convention and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t looking forward to getting back on the quinoa wagon.

I might not give up wine, but I’m definitely incorporating this way of eating into my life on the regular. Both my husband and I feel better and maybe we will also lose some weight. As far as having all that extra time…perfect for blog writing.


MARGIE’S QUINOA

Add ingredients into the Crock-Pot in this order (or put into a big pot):
1 cup rinsed quinoa, any color of your choice
2 cups of the broth of your choice
1 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes, no salt added (I fill the can about half way full with water to rinse it and add that to the pot)
1/2 jar Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce (refrigerate and save the other half for next week – Trader Joe’s has 2 other flavors of simmer sauce you can try as well.)
1 bag cut butternut squash (I cut the larger pieces in half or quarters so they will cook through)
2 – 3 zucchini squash, slice the long way, then cut in 1/2” slices
1 bag sliced cremini mushrooms
2 handfuls of any leafy green (I like spinach)
1 generous handful of shredded carrots

Cover pot and cook on high for 3.5 hours. You can stir once towards the end, but you don’t have to. (If you are using a regular pot, simmer, covered, until the veggies are cooked through – about 45 minutes.)

When it is finished, add 1 can of drained black beans and a cup of frozen peas for color.

This will feed 2 people, 4 meals. We add a small amount of protein like cooked ground turkey or roasted chicken, sour cream or hummus on top, and avocado.