Tag Archives: sweet potato

Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry

Isn’t it great when family members can help other family members with academics, college or careers?  One of our nieces, Meg, reached out to her Uncle Jimmy for help with a skype interview for a summer internship.  We’re so happy to learn she got it!  When Delta Airlines made moves to open a reservations office in San Juan my aunt, Madrinita, helped me out and secured an interview for me.  It was certainly no guarantee of being hired but it got my toe in the door. The rest was up to me.  Hundreds and hundreds of people were interviewed for 13 positions.  I was just out of college, young and foolish and completely unaware of any competition for these highly coveted positions.  With the beauty and confidence of one in their early 20’s, I sailed through all my interviews happy to be on a mini-vacation during the day while spending precious moments with my family at night, secure in the knowledge that the world truly was my oyster.  I scored that position myself but had my aunt not let me know, had she not set up the initial interview, that chapter of my life would have been rewritten.  I lived with my relatives for some time and although we had a few disagreements, (for instance, how can I be home by 10:00 pm if I’m not leaving the house until 11:00pm.  Right?), we all enjoyed this unexpected gift of time spent with each other.  I gained a fierce loyalty and love of the island and its people, from the cool, wet mountains down to the white, hot beaches.  I had some great times and, of course, some not so great moments but regardless, Puerto Rico is my safe haven, my refuge, the stuff of my dreams.  My hope is that you’ll pour “dos dedos”, two fingers, of rum, crank the salsa and explore this island recipe.  Buen provecho!

This recipe has so many Caribbean flavors.  Sweet potato and pumpkin are huge in the islands and linger softly in the background tone of so many dishes such as beans, soups and curries.  Coconut milk is used in both sweet and savory dishes while cilantro plays a major role in countless savory dishes.  I put a whole scotch bonnet pepper in the the pot and fish it out before serving.  If one of your guests mistakes it for a chunk of tomato they’re in for one helluva bad surprise.  If you like your food screaming hot then, by all means  mince two or three of the peppers and throw them in but I find one is just fine.  This curry is served over rice and I prefer an organic, short grain brown.  Short grain is sweeter than long and pairs well with this dish.  Please know all these ingredient amounts are easily changed.  If you’re not crazy about pumpkin then leave it out and double up on the sweet potato.  Not a fan of zucchini?  Add carrots or potatoes instead.  And basil is brilliant in place of cilantro so play around with this forgiving dish until you come up with your own island version.  Enjoy!

Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped, approximately a generous 1/2 cup
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 1 medium size bell pepper, seeded and cut into small thin strips
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 13.5 cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite or reduced fat is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 pound calabasa squash, peeled and cut into 2 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional
  • 4 medium size zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters then chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, with or without the tail, it’s your choice
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped and divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large, deep-sided saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until soft but not browned, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves, bell pepper, tomatoes and curry powder, stirring for several minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water and gently stir.
  5. Simmer 10 minutes then add the squash and scotch bonnet, if using.  Gently stir.
  6. Simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes and calabasa are fork tender.
  7. Add the zucchini and cook 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add the shrimp and 1/2 cup of the cilantro and cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.
  9. Taste for salt and pepper.
  10. Scatter remaining cilantro over curry and serve.

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Country Mouse Goes to the City!

I’m back, everyone, back from a glorious and desperately needed vacation!  We had such a rough start that I was almost beginning to feel that God just wanted us to stay home!  We were to scheduled to leave on a Friday almost at the same time James’ flight was leaving to take him back to school.  The night before departure, the moment dinner had ended, Jimmy announced “There’s an issue!”  Apparently he had forgotten to renew his passport and it had expired.  What are you going to do?? I mean really.  New travel plans were made and we were then slated to leave the following Wednesday.  Was I happy?  Again.  What are you going to do?  Say “No. I’m not going.”?  Pamela said “Okay.  Just tell him you’ll go on ahead and meet him there next week.  ‘K?”  Well, that ain’t gonna happen.  Our dog had severely cut his sweet paw on a piece of glass just a few days prior so we consoled ourselves by saying at least we could keep an eye on him and not worry.  We went through rounds of bandage changes and antibiotics.  Three or four days later Jimmy’s checking his emails on his cell, it’s nonstop but that’s ALL I’m going to say, when he says “The bank says they called me.  They didn’t call me.”  He checked his voice mail and sure enough.  Message from the bank.  Apparently someone got his credit card number and was using it out in Phoenix!!!  The bank caught it but they weren’t going to be able to get the replacement card to us before our departure.   What a pain.  We thought “Okay.  We’re good.  We can roll with the best.”  Then the night before we were to leave I opened the refrigerator and noticed THAT IT WASN’T EVEN COOL!!  I opened the freezer and the ice was wet.  And dripping.  Are you kidding me??  Jimmy immediately called Sears.  The guy was coming out the following day. I was beginning to think, “This is creepy.  Is God telling us something but we’re so stressed and tired we aren’t listening?”  The following day I got up, threw my remaining necessities in my bag,  and started my travel preparations.  Hair, travel make-up, jewels etc.  I couldn’t shake that ookey feeling.  My bags were packed, I was ready to leave for the airport and the Sears man came.  What a nice man.  Took everything out of the freezer, told us what was wrong and how much the total repair would be, HAD THE PIECE IN HIS TRUCK, installed it, we paid and he was off!!!  AND SO WERE WE!!!  We arrived at the airport knowing we had lost all our first class seats but just relieved we were almost on our way!!! Short on time we ran to the gate where the gate agent happily informed us, “Just so ya know.  I was able to upgrade y’all to first.  Have a great flight!!”  BOOM!!!!  Yeah, baby!!  That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.  We boarded the plane, settled in and took off.  It felt good.  It felt right.  Our bags made it to Heathrow and we set off for our hotel.

This is the $27.00 (after conversion) pot of coffee I just HAD to have in our hotel room the first morning in London.  Jimmy had a great, big, hairy fit.  Hahahahaha!!!  He sure was happy with the biscuits, tho!  And isn’t the china pretty?

I had packed a few lightweight sweaters and long pants assuming London would be cool and knowing Lesvos is cool in the late summer evenings.  What I failed to remember was Londoners don’t wear colors…at least not like in South Florida.  I had lots of red, white and hot pink. Oh!  And gold Jack Rogers.  I find the good thing about getting older is you cut through the BS really fast.  You’re in London?  Totally wrong clothing?? Get over it and get out.  There’s no right way or wrong way just YOUR way.  Now freshen up that gorgeous red lipstick and get out there!  Museums, shops, restaurants…tempest is fugiting!!! Even as we speak!  Off we went and what a blast we had.  We walked and walked through museums each more enchanting and fascinating than the previous, through countless neighborhoods, ducking into bookstores and pubs.

A little sparkling repartee between friends. Something about, “There was a young girl in Nantucket…”

We even stumbled upon a shop which carried needlepoint canvases and pillows exquisitely stitched by prisoners in the British penal system.  Jimmy most generously sprang for a magnificent canvas of a beetroot, rich in purples and greens.  “Thankyousweetheart,you’rethebest!!!!!”  It’s what I always say but it’s true.

Such loot. And we had a magnificent time.  By late afternoon on our second day the skies opened and the rains started.  We happen to be by a rather good-looking wine bar and restaurant.  I said to Jimmy, “It looks good!  C’mon!!”  So in we went and was it just a little slice of perfection!

A unexpected snippet of heaven!

We settled in, ordered a bottle of water and began perusing the menu.  Oh, glory be!  It was beautiful.  And to truly show that the god’s were smiling upon us the daily wine flight was completely Greek.  While waiting for our wines to be surrendered to us we decided upon two small plates to be split.  Roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed spinach, girolle, (a pale yellow or orange wild mushroom ours being from Scotland),  sandwiched between more roasted sweet potatoes and topped with a gorgeous slab of saganaki cheese broiled to a golden perfection.   Oh, wait!   And finished with a generous drizzle of small-batch Greek olive oil.  The second plate to be shared was a stacked dish of tomatoes roasted with fines herbes, guacamole, cold medallions of wild caught local lobster, another dollop of guac topped with a crisp round of local country bacon.  CAN I GET A WITNESS???  By the time the wine flight came out and I could barely contain myself.  It was exceptional.  Unfortunately, it was a bit of a tease and I wanted more…lots more!!

That siren call of the grape!

Then out came our plates.  What joy!  What bliss!  Both were just brilliant.  The Hadzidakis white was perfect with the silken avocado and buttery lobster.  And the Naoussa, you ask?  Mercy.  Like a Pinot Noir it cut through the richness of the sweet potato and the golden slab of saganaki cheese.


We kept marveling at the knockout meal we were so thorougly enjoying all the while questioning why we don’t have something like this at home?  Local is so exciting and gratifying but nooooooo.  We have places like the Cheesecake Factory, (can you say morbidly obese to me??), or even worse Appleby’s.  Although I’vd been told that Appleby’s serves likker sooooo… I might have to take that observation back!!  But my point is that even if food is rich if it’s clean and eaten in small amounts it can only enhance the quality of life.  All you can eat is NOT the way to go.  Anyway, enough of my preaching.   I ate ALL of my lobster dish before I could photograph it so last night I made my version of it.  I added spinach sauteed with a little shallot to add another layer of flavor as I really wanted another green vegetable.  People, it was so good!  Granted the bacon wasn’t local but I bought the best I could find.  Well worth the effort.

Bacon. Another form of crack.

We decided against having dessert and had the last glass of wine in the flight as our after lunch treat.  YES!!!  A Muscat Petit Grain from Samos and our eyes were rolling back in our heads.  Again.  Cold, sweet and crisp I could easily see this not only with dessert but with foie gras or a pate.  Happy and sated we bid our adieux and stumbled back out into the rain.  We walked miles in the rain.  I’m not exaggerating.  And ALL I could think of was how my brand new gold Jack Rogers sandals were going to be ruined.  Ruined!  Slogging through the streets of London town I finally told Jimmy I have GOT to find some shoes.  Really.  I mean it.  My Jacks are going to be rurnt.  RURNT!!  We found a mini-mall and in the middle of six or seven Arab men haggling over the prices of suitcases I found the most darling hot pink, butter suede, closed toe loafer with a platinum link across the top.  And it was on sale!  Happy again we walked the 7 miles back to the hotel.  It was a good, good day!!