A few weeks back, I had briefly mentioned that I was beginning to feel a bit of an itch; a nagging bit of wanderlust nipping at my winter-pale toes, if you will. Having had what can only be described as a whirlwind year in 2011 – what with getting married, moving, and attempting to coerce a pug puppy into understanding that Mitchell Gold leather ottoman edges are not acceptable teething devices – I suddenly was very aware of the fact that though we have had plenty of excitement and more than plenty to be thankful for, we hadn’t found a time to get away with each other, and take a few, real, deep breaths.
Removing yourself from real life – albeit only temporarily – has effects that ripple down your spine and out to your extremities, allowing each one the chance to lax up, and totally and completely drain the tension of all your “real life” worries and stresses. Though you know your email will snarl up, your voicemail will become clogged, that you must still finally face an appointment to get that cavity filled, and that the bigger picture question of just what the heck should I do with this life? will not dissolve or resolve themselves upon your brief departure from reality, you can count on returning with a clear head, an open mind, and a less frazzled outlook on the things that are troubling you most.
As we had so many life changes wallop themselves into one tidy little package, we knew the timing to squeeze a traditional honeymoon just wasn’t there – a decision that, looking back, I know was right. And now, we have found ourselves with an unexpected few weeks off; a few weeks between another (very good) little shakeup – a few weeks which we know we must embrace to the fullest. I am very (veryveryvery!) excited and feel very (veryveryvery!) lucky to now scratch that pestering little itch I’d been feeling, and scratch it in the best way I can think of. We are skipping town tomorrow night to head East, boarding a plane to Baltimore for a much needed weekend with family, and then jumping across the pond next Tuesday, to kick off a glorious two-week European adventure.
Though I had first been thinking more traditionally of my toes in the sand (and, ahem, fruity-umbrella-spiked cocktail in hand) when I lamented said itch a few weeks prior, we carefully considered our options, and overwhelmingly decided cacio e pepe, macaroons, insanely great red wine, cheese, cheese, and more cheese and a healthy dose of culture sounded more like what we needed.
(Plus, I need to show off my rudimentary French skills, acquired from a few very serious sessions with my Rosetta Stone Christmas gift!)
We have a packed itinerary, but one that still allows for plenty of relaxation amongst the excitement. After a few nights in London proper, we’ll spend a night in the gorgeous English countryside, and then skip over to Paris for a few days enjoying the tres chic city life that I so adore. From Paris, we fly to Rome, and after stuffing ourselves with as much pasta as possible, we’re off to Naples, and finally, to the Amalfi Coast.
We have plans to meet up with many friends – different friends in London, in the English country, in Paris, and in Amalfi – and having our plans punctuated by some of the best company I can think of makes our journey that much more exciting. I am looking forward to amazing food, new sights, some embarrassing French pronunciation, and plenty of lazy mornings spent sipping coffee and nibbling on pastries while ambling through the ancient winding streets by the sea.
I will not totally abandon you – unless there is some unforeseen disaster with an electrical adapter I have no idea how to use (knocks on wood) - as I’m packing up my laptop and am optimistic about being able to post a few of our sights along the way.
And in the meantime around here, I’m keeping our suppers simple: easy enough to scoop up just what you need at the market, and delicious enough that you can count on there being no leftovers to be accidentally left behind in the fridge – only to scare the daylights out of you with their appearance when you return from almost three weeks away.
I made these honey chipotle grilled shrimp last night, and they were the type of meal that elicits total silence at the table – the type that renders your mouth too full too often to foster conversation. The shrimp are flash marinated in a mixture of minced chipotles, adobo sauce, and honey, and then take all of 5 minutes on the grill to become crisp edged and tender. They are slightly smokey and spicy, and the avocado yogurt sauce that I made to go alongside might – might – even upstage the shrimp; it is cool and creamy, with a hint of garlic, and tastes like something absolutely sinful for you, when, in fact – it is just yogurt, avocado, fresh lime, and garlic. Hardly anything to stunt my enthusiasm for donning a bathing suit on what is shaping up to be a warm week on the Southern Italian coast.
I served this alongside quinoa with roasted butternut squash, black beans, cilantro, and cotija cheese (recipe to come imminently!) it was a perfect meal to go along with so many other perfect things.
This is the type of meal that is made for vacation; whether it’s in the nights leading up to your departure, or actually while you are on said break, looking for something to make that is simple but special; easy yet delicious.
Honey Chipotle Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Avocado-Greek Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4 as an Appetizer, 2 as a meal
Freeze any leftover chilis and adobo sauce you have – they are excellent mixed into meatballs, burgers, meatloaf, or even mixed with a bit of butter and melted over steak.
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
2 generous spoonfuls of the adobo sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 ripe avocado
1 cup 2% greek yogurt
1 clove of garlic, peeled
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste (about 1/2 – 1 tsp)
tools: wooden skewers; food processor (or blender); grill (or grill pan)
First, marinate the shrimp. Combine the minced chilis, the adobo sauce, olive oil, and honey in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the peeled and deveined shrimp, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
While the shrimp marinates, make the dipping sauce. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flesh of the avocado with the yogurt, the garlic, and the lime juice. Process until the sauce is very smooth and creamy, and there are no lumps remaining. Taste, and add salt to your liking (I used just over 1/2 tsp). Reserve the sauce in the fridge until ready to serve.
After the shrimp has marinated 30 minutes, thread the shrimp on the skewers, about 4 per skewer, making sure that the skewer pierces through the tail and head portions – this will help ensure that they do not swivel around when grilling. Heat your grill (or grill pan) to high heat, and grill the skewers, flipping halfway through cooking time, until the shrimp are slightly charred on the outside and are just barely opaque on the inside, about 2 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp, and remember they will continue to cook for a minute or so after you pull them off the grill.
Serve the skewers immediately with the cool dipping sauce on the side.