Food doesn’t need a pedigree to satisfy

Mutts are royalty around here. When someone asks us what kind of dogs we have, we say we have three dogs and 12 breeds. So, it’s no wonder that I’m kind of fascinated by mutt food – the dishes that evolved in America, based loosely on European or Asian cooking.

You make them yourself – French toast, spaghetti, pizza. I love to hear my friends’ astonishment when they travel abroad and taste the original version, or better yet when they embarrass themselves by seeking out their American favorites on a menu while some poor waiter rolls his eyes.

American home cooks and chefs were most creative in adapting recipes in the first half of the 20th century. Maybe it’s because their families and customers were still only one or two generations away from their overseas roots. Diners, often run by immigrant families, led the way in providing cheap, hearty Americanized versions of ethnic dishes. Yep, I love the irony that these “All-American” institutes that figure so large in our country’s nostalgic longings provided strudels, shepherd’s pies, lasagna, beef stroganoff, corned beef and cabbage and goulash alongside burgers and meatloaf.

They also made a mean shrimp scampi, my favorite mutt food – to make or eat. It’s easy, quick and hearty, and like “spaghetti” it can be made in dozens of different ways. “Scampi” is actually the plural form of prawns in Italian. On these shores it means the way the shrimp are cooked, whether they are broiled or sauteed with garlic, oil or butter, white wine and parsley.

Scampi’s heyday has come and gone in restaurants, but it’s so easy to make at home, that you’ll wonder why it’s not on your heavy rotation of quick dinners. It works with frozen, raw shrimp or those fresh from the shore. You can put other spins on it, substituting tequila and cilantro for a Mexican flavor, or green onions and saki for a Japanese spin. Leave the shrimp unpeeled for a messy finger food experience, or peel them first for a neater dish. Serve scampi over pasta or polenta or better yet, as is, with a hunk of crusty bread to soak up the juices.

See? Easy, adaptable, and of murky origin. A good mutt food.

Muttalicious Shrimp Scampi

4 Tbsp. butter

1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, if frozen, thawed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup white wine

juice and zest from one lemon

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives

1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shrimp and saute until it just starts to turn pink. Add garlic and continue cooking until shrimp is pink and firm – about three more minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place the shrimp into a large bowl. Add wine, lemon juice and zest and olives to the pan and simmer about five minutes. Pour over the shrimp. Add parmesan and toss. Serve immediately with pan juices.


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