We’re getting a jump start on summer’s dog days this year. Not even halfway through July and New York City has completed its annual transformation into the fetid stew it normally reserves for August. My curls have erupted into a frizzy halo and, while I fantasize about this kind of weather in January when the mercury strains to climb into the teens, it’s really kind of unbearable outside.
When it gets this bad, I can’t even contemplate cooking. No stove. No oven. Even the microwave’s pushing it. This is where Virginia T. Habeeb comes in. I know Virginia T. Habeeb probably about as well as you do, which is to say not at all. But a recipe for Shrimp with Avocado-Sesame Sauce, from her Pita the Great, turned up when I was rifling through Fresh Direct’s recipe archive a few months back and I’ve fallen in love with her mix of shrimp, avocado, and tahini. It’s turned up on our dinner table several times since then, getting slightly tweaked along the way, but always (hopefully) staying true to Virginia T. Habeeb’s vision.
Shrimp with Avocado-Sesame sauce makes for excellent weeknight grub, since it’s really more mixing than cooking, and can be assembled while listening to the opening credits of most hour-long legal dramas. Tahini is a Middle Eastern paste made up of ground sesame seeds, that’s usually in hummus or baba ghanoush. But Virginia T. Habeeb really stumbled onto a winner when she combined the nutty flavor of tahini with sweet shrimp and creamy avocado, and the addition of lemon juice and parsley emphasize the Middle Eastern flair. Virginia T. Habeeb’s original recipe was slightly different; she didn’t include onion or tomatoes and she left the shrimp whole. But whether you do it up Best-Bite stylee or take the Habeeb route, this an interesting twist on standard salad fare and an excellent light meal.
Thank you, Virginia T. Habeeb, for providing just what I needed, when the mere thought of the kitchen was giving me prickly heat. And I hope you'll write and tell me what the T stands for.
Shrimp with Avocado-Sesame Sauce
Adapted from Virginia T. Habeeb’s Pita the Great
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and mashed
3 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice or more, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 4 tablespoons water
1 1/2 pounds cooked medium shrimp
½ cup finely chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
¼ cup finely diced Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 head romaine lettuce
4 whole-wheat pitas, cut into wedges
1. Mix the avocado, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; add water gradually (up to 4 tablespoons) until the mixture is of a thick pouring consistency. Taste to correct seasonings.
2. Chop shrimp into bite size chunks and toss with parsley, tomatoes, and onion. Add dressing and mix to coat.
3. Divide romaine evenly among plates and top with generous spoonfuls of shrimp. Serve with pita wedges.