{RECIPE} Darling's Summer Shrimp in Mojito Dressing

“The art of cooking is among the most intimate things that we can do for another.”  
Chef Charlie Trotter

Romantic meals can be shared in your kitchen at home. You don't need a reservation for two at some candlelit table across town to make it special. But what makes a meal become aphrodisiac? Here is a dish that won my heart over and a story about how love and food are undeniably connected.

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I watch him peel shrimp in the kitchen. He’s holding the knife steady and with precision he deftly cuts along the spine of the shrimp, pink and quivering. At the wooden cutting block he conducts a jazz rhythm with his chef’s knife— finely chopping fresh leaves of mint and feathery cilantro, scooping the green herbs into a bowl. I am enthralled by the way he takes such loving care of the ingredients. The watermelon and cucumber, all cubed and ready, shimmer with watery urgency. His nimble fingers shimmy among them, tossing and dressing the salsa with a squeeze of lime. The juice spurts into the bowl as he squeezes the lime until its pulp frays and separates from the green rind. I notice the juice covering his fingers, palm of his hand, running down his arm. It smells good and citrusy. He pulls me close and kisses me. Fragrant mint and juicy lime on his hands, he gives me yet another and another kiss. Then he’s back to preparing our meal. I delight in watching him drizzle olive oil into another bowl, stirring the dressing with the whisk. He slices fresh corn off its cob. As I stand there barefoot in my sundress, captivated as a little girl, he gives me a sly glance. He knows I am melting inside down to the marrow with want. Love is a magical ingredient in this dish.

He sets the two dishes down on the dining table. Shrimp in a dressing of olive oil, lime, honey, mint and cilantro, along with a salsa of corn, watermelon and cucumber— the fragrance and sweetness, the pleasure. He caresses my thigh under the table. I taste a mouthful of his creation, and suddenly, from the very core of my body, I am shuddering with emotion. The meal had transformed from a casual little dish into an aphrodisiac affair. A sensation like champagne bubbles rises up through my body, and I am giddy, swooning. His hand is warm, caressing my thigh. I am shaking, my knees are jelly, unable to contain the pleasure. I am overwhelmed by his cooking, and with delicate forkfuls I taste each flavor as it combines together upon my tongue, inhaling the essence of it, holding the bite upon my palate, savoring. He slides the flat of his palm softly along my inner leg, smiling to himself. My mouth is full of watermelon and cucumber, and corn and shrimp and I can’t stop sighing. I am so moved I want to cry from joy, but all I can do is surrender to it. His eyes gleam with happiness. I taste slowly, relishing each mouthful. We sit close and kiss over the plates, mouths full of the flavors of watermelon, olive oil, honey, cilantro, lime juice, and mint, the sea-sweetness of the pink fresh shrimp, the tang of pleasure.

Later, in the kitchen, the counter scattered with bunches of mint and cilantro, we lean against the counter and kiss. Again the faint aroma of herbs on his hands, like a magic spell, intoxicates me with its summery bouquet.

Darling’s Summer Shrimp in Mojito Dressing

with Watermelon, Corn and Cucumber Salsa

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
-Henry James

It was the first time my darling cooked something for me that summer afternoon. He discovered this flavor combination while having lunch at Chef John Sedlar’s restaurant Rivera in downtown Los Angeles. Colorful with a salsa of red, juicy watermelon, diced cucumber, and a confetti of yellow corn, this dish delighted. Whisk up a light “mojito vinaigrette” using finely minced cilantro and mint in lime juice, then dress up the shrimp so pink and joyous on the plate. I felt my whole body tremble with pleasure as I tasted this Summer Shrimp in Mojito Dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, diced

  • 2 cups seedless watermelon, diced

  • 1 ear corn, husk and silk removed, kernels cut off

  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, lightly packed

  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, lightly packed

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 2 tablespoons shallot, minced

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • dash sea salt and black pepper

  • Juice from 1 lime

Directions

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to barely a simmer.

Add shrimp and cook until flesh is opaque, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cool water until shrimp are room temperature. Set aside.

To make the salsa: Place the watermelon, cucumber, corn, shallot and garlic in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing gently to combine. To make the mojito vinaigrette: Place cilantro, mint, oil, honey and lime juice in the work bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until herbs are finely chopped.

Season with salt and pepper.

Add shrimp to salsa.

Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve immediately. Enjoy!