Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Brochetas de Camarones, Mango-Habanero Salsa

I was looking for something easy for the grill yesterday when it struck me on seeing some beautiful shrimp at the market that I should do skewers/kebabs/brochettes/brochetas. I am usually philosophically opposed to skewers of mixed foods because the foods generally have different cooking rates and to get everything cooked, naturally something else must be overcooked.

Here's a tip for you for doing skewers. Put each different item on a separate skewer so that you can take it off the grill when it is done. Then you can take a little bit from each skewer to make up each plate.

Shrimp, Tomato, Pineapple, and Pepper on Sugar Cane Skewers
In this case, I wasn't worried because the tomatoes, pineapple, and sweet peppers are all ready to eat in their raw state, so all I had to worry about was cooking the shrimp, which took about three minutes on the blazing hot grill. The marinade you see is minced garlic and cilantro stems, panela (unrefined sugar cane sugar), dark rum, olive oil, black pepper, and a touch of fish sauce.

While I was at the market, I grabbed a six-foot length of sugar cane and split it into skewers. Ann and Carter seemed to enjoy nibbling on the scraps.

Don't Let the Beauty Fool You: Habaneros are Wicked Hot!
Aren't these habaneros gorgeous? Ann kept wanting to taste one in her bull-in-the-china-shop way and I kept telling her to leave them alone. I think it was Carter's Jamaican friend who finally convinced her, "You don't want to do that!" I'm not a big fan of habaneros because I find them too fruity for most applications, but the one place that I like them is in fruit salsa.

And, where did the fake énye from? It's habanero, after Habana, not habañero. Oh, and quoting Ann later, "You put in just ONE?" "Yes, without the seeds." I told her. Don't mess around with them!

Mango Salsa with Habanero, Black Beans, and Pineapple
And lo! Fruit salsa. Mango, slightly on the green side as I like it best for salsa, black beans, pineapple scraps from the skewers, cilantro, red onion, red pepper from the garden, lime juice, and panela.


You might know panela by a different name or shape. From Mexico, it generally comes in small truncated cones and is called piloncillo, after the truncated cone shape into which the sugar cane syrup is molded. You also find it in blocks, bars, and big squares. In Mexico, the term panela most often refers to a cheese, formally called queso de panela (cheese molded in a basket), and abbreviated simply to panela. Panela is identical to the jaggery that you will find in Indian groceries; jaggery I see most often as hemispherical lumps or broader, relatively squatter cones than piloncillo. No matter what it is called; it is all the same stuff. If you had to substitute something for it, dark brown sugar would kind of work, but it would be better to use a splash of molasses with some other sweetener for panela has a great molasses undertone to it.

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