Between when my relationship with College Boyfriend ended and when I met Dan was a span of about 18 months during which time I actually, like, went on dates with people for the first time ever. In the fall of 2000 I met a guy on BART who made me laugh, and who pestered me for my phone number. Thinking nothing of it, I gave it to him. He called me a day or two later and pestered me until I agreed to hang out with him. Thus began my brief thing (I hesitate to call it a relationship; I considered the situation quite casual) with the Chef.
I call him the Chef because he was a professional chef. He had worked in all kinds of restaurants and loved the inventive, creative side of cooking. One of the most fun things we ever did was go to the grocery store one evening. He stood in the produce area, stock still, for at least five minutes, and then began picking out items to turn into a fabulous feast. That night I learned how to peel/devein shrimp, how to make rice noodles into those fun puffy worms, and I watched him make a caesar salad dressing from scratch (he used some citrus in addition to the usual ingredients). Unfortunately, the good times were few and far between, and while I thought the arrangement was more of a casual dating thing, it turned out he was in love with me. He was also five years older, had had drug and alcohol issues in the past, and he wasn’t smart. At all. So eventually I broke it off with him (actually, it was the day before Valentine’s Day and he tried to give me the gift he’d bought anyway and I didn’t let him and I still feel bad about breaking up with him at that time but I was really over the whole situation and I was only 21 years old for eff’s sake). I maintain that the only good things to come out of the deal was that I learned how to toss things in a frying pan one-handed (I rarely use a spatula for cooking tossable food in a pan), I learned how to make salad dressing from scratch (you drizzle the oil into the vinegar/citrus/etc really slowly and whisk the whole time), and I learned how to play competitive Scrabble – all three of which have served me over the years since I broke it off with him.
During part of the time we dated and for a while afterward, the Chef worked at a Caribbean restaurant in the Piedmont area of Oakland. Sometimes I’d go there while he was working and I never had to pay for my meal – and everything he sent me from the kitchen was delicious (it’s still the best bread pudding I’ve ever had, for example). Many of the things I ate at this restaurant were foods I tried for the first time ever – jerk chicken and salmon, jalapeno corn bread, and mango salsa. One of my favorite things was a ceviche – I don’t even remember what was in it, only that it was really good. And so last night when Dan made a mango-shrimp ceviche for dinner I thought of the Chef and tipped my proverbial hat to his cooking skills. The man I married may not be a professional chef, and I may have passed on a thing or two I learned from the pro I dated briefly, but he sure can cook. This is the recipe he threw together.
Mango-Shrimp Ceviche (makes about 2.5 or 3 cups)
Approximately 20 51-60 count shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined
One small mango, peeled, flesh cut into very small chunks (we used the kind that is yellow and a bit smaller, not the kind that starts green and turns red/pink)
A handful of cilantro, chopped fine
1/4 medium size red onion, chopped fine
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
Juice of 5 limes (I think it worked out to be about 1/2 cup lime juice)
A few splashes of apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste (don’t taste it while the shrimp is still raw though)
Chop shrimp into pieces (they don’t all have to be the same size) and mix with all other ingredients. Let refrigerate for a couple of hours until the flesh of the shrimp has become opaque and pinkish. EAT.
Dan served this with warm corn tortillas, coconut rice (rice made with leftover coconut milk from the thai curry we had the other night), refried black beans, and a simple slaw of napa cabbage and carrots. So we kind of ate it like soft tacos. SO GOOD. mmm. It could also be used as a dip for tortilla chips.