Bulgarian Shopska Salad

Hey! I just returned from a trip to Bulgaria! Bulgaria, you say?
Yes, indeed.
I was working for Indiana's Maple Leaf Farm duck producers as a sort of culinary ambassador. They have just launched a duck farm in Bulgaria and they will be the first American company to produce duck in the E.U.  I had the hard job of doing a cooking demo for a cooking academy in Sophia and doing a cocktail party with my fried and Maple Leaf Farms corporate chef Dale Miller at the American Ambassador's residence.  Such is the grueling life of a chef!
The early part of the week I was in Bulgaria was a culture immersion for sure. We were treated to tours and meals by our host Maria Polimenova, who herself is quite a culinarian! 
On to the food in Bulgaria. It is very fresh and simple. Their produce is excellent! and they everyday salad eaten in Bulgaria in season shows that off. It is called the Shopska Salad.
If you visit, you'll encounter it. There is no real "recipe" so to speak, It is similar to a Greek Country Salad as there is no lettuce. Here is a basic rundown.
serves 2
In a salad bowl add
3 large medium ripe tomatoes, cut in largeish chunks
2 cucumbers, peeled, and cut into generous cubes
1/2 sweet bell pepper, cut into medium dice
1 small sweet onion, shaved thin
good quality olive oil
red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 cup mexican queso blanco or ricotta salata (these are the closest I could find to their "fresh cheese"), grated large or shredded

Dress the veggies olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Top with cheese and a kalmata olive.
That's it. That is how it was presented in every place we ate. And it was always refreshing and delicious. 

Ric Orlando's Original Purple Haze Shrimp

Ric Orlando’s original “Purple Haze Shrimp”

Ok, so this dish comes with a lot of lore and just as much BS. It is hot? You bet? Is is painful…well, a little. But is it balanced? Totally. This is the perfect example of what West Indian spice should be. Like Trinidad’s inimitable Matouks brand hot sauce, this dish puts you on the edge, but keeps you coming back for more. The best analogy is this: it’s an unusually hot May day. All the kids are splashing about in the swimming hole. You jump in too. And the water if frigging FREEZIN! What now? If you jump out you’ll be doomed to a day shivering on the shore, but if you stay in and get used to it, you’ll have a great fun day and maybe some new adventures!  A good deep hot dish is the same. Stay in and experience what a good mind bending meal is about!  

The name Purple Haze was inspired by guitar legend and journalist Matte Henderson, who walked right in to the original New World Kitchen on Zena Road and explained to Ric that his shrimp appetizer was making him “trip balls”. He then vocalized the guitar intro to Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.
At the time the dish was made with papaya and mango, not red cabbage. That is when the inspiration for Purple Haze came in.  Make it purple. Try everything. Beets? No, too dirty tasting. Blueberries?…nope, too “blue” fruity. Black berries, nah…too tart. And it occurred to me that cabbage would be perfect. It has plenty of cellulose which assists in digesting the capsicum from the habaneros and will cook out very purple! So that is it.
Enjoy your trip.

Purple Haze Shrimp
Serves 4 as a side, snack, app or light meal with plenty of leftover sauce.
16 16-20 or u-15 GULF shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact.
3 oz unsalted butter
12 ounces pineapple juice
4-5 habanero chiles, or 6-7 scotch bonnets stemmed, seeds intact
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2 teaspoons ginger, dry
1  teaspoons thyme, fresh, divided
4 ounces cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pineapple, diced
3 scallions, sliced

To make the sauce.
Put the habaneros, cabbage and onions in a food processor and pulse to chop everything very fine.
Put this mix in a non reactive pot with the pineapple juice, vinegar, ginger, cornstarch, brown sugar, salt and half of the thyme. Bring to a boil then simmer 15 minutes to concentrate the flavors. This is the Purple Haze sauce. Cool and jar it up. It will last, refrigerated for up to one month or more.
To make the dish, use a heavy skillet.
Melt half the butter and then arrange the shrimp in an even layer in the pan. Cook over medium high heat until the shrimp begin to caramelize on one side. You want them golden brown

Turn the shrimp over and add about 6 oz of sauce. Bring to a boil, then add the rest of the butter. and swirl to melt it in. Spoon our 4 shrimp per person, smothered in sauce.
Garnish wit fresh pineapple, scallions and sprinkle with the remaining thyme!

Enjoy with beer, a fruity cocktail or a glass of cold white wine like the Finger Lakes riesling in the picture. Don’t do red wine!!! It will make the peppers hotter and will also make the cabbage bitter

Ric Orlando's Peppered Shrimp

In NOLA these are just called BBQ shrimp or maybe Pan BBQ Shrimp.
I’ve tried some really good renditions while in Louisiana but, as you expected, my recipe is better than most. Or at least that is what I’ve been told by many Louisiana natives. Why? Because I worked at it, tasting as many versions as I can and distilling the recipe down to what makes the better ones memorable.  This version is not for tourists…it is derived from older home recipes I encountered, which put a big emphasis on the black pepper flavor.  These have been on my menus since my very first executive chef job at Justins in 1989, and I have always been proud to serve such an unabashedly messy and spicy dish to my guests. I guess it has kind of defined my style.
Serves 4
The BUTTER Sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
3 tbls dry rosemary
1 tbls dry basil
2 tbls dry oregano
1/2 lbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup shrimp stock or canned clam juice
1 tablespoon minced
1 tbls salt (adjust according to what stock you use)
1-2 tsp cayenne
1 tbls paprika
I baguette for sopping up the sauce
16 nice sized (16-20 or u-15) GULF shrimp, Shell on but deviened
chopped scallions for garnish

To Make the “Butter Sauce”
Put the lemon juice, peppers and dried herbs in a blender.
Then add the garlic, salt, cayenne and paprika to make a paste.
In a heavy sauce pot melt the butter and the stock together.  Then add ground spice paste to butter mix (using a rubber spatula to get it all).  Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently until mixture is a mahogany color.  Store in steel or glass container so you can remelt when needed.
Lasts refrigerated for up to one month.

To make the dish
Use a heavy skillet. Add about 2-3 oz Butter sauce per person.
Warm the sauce and add 3-4 shrimp per person. Cook the shrimp for about one minute, turn and finish cooking them right in the butter.
Use a slotted spoon to arrange the shrimp on a warm plate, pour over the sauce and serve crusty baguette on the side for dipping.