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Spring Dinner: Barbecued Cajun Shrimp

My younger brother came home for summer break and we celebrated his return with a fabulous dinner. We tried a new recipe for barbecued cajun shrimp that was absolutely delicious. Our grocery stores have had lots of amazing produce, which we also incorporated into this meal.


Day Before...

  1. Make bbq sauce. (This will keep in your fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.)

  2. Grocery shop.

  3. Arrange flowers.

  4. Bake cakes. Cool in pans. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

  5. Make herb dip.

Day Of...

  1. Frost the cake and refrigerate. Take out 30 minutes before serving.

  2. Set the table.

  3. Slice and blanche vegetables for crudités platter.

  4. Grill and bake shrimp.


I could eat my weight in Ina Garten's creamy herb dip (and I practically did). I served red and white Belgian endive, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and blanched asparagus. I found rainbow carrots at Trader Joe's. To blanche the asparagus, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Trim the asparagus (I snap them in half and discard the bottom half). Boil the asparagus for one minute, then drop them into a large bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking. A crudités platter is great for entertaining as you can assemble it ahead of time.

For the shrimp, dredge them in seasoning (such as Tony Chachere's original creole seasoning). Grill them for a few minutes, then baste them in barbecue sauce and finish in the oven. You could use store-bought barbecue sauce, or make your own. I used Neil Connolly's barbecue sauce recipe. It calls for a lot of ingredients but most are standard pantry ingredients you probably have in your kitchen. This gingery sauce would also be great on pork, chicken, and beef.

I served the shrimp over a bed of arugula and with melon slices. It made a fresh and "summery" combo.


Barbecued Cajun Shrimp

From Neil Connolly's In the Kennedy Kitchen

Serves 4

1 pound jumbo shrimp (18-20 count), peeled (tails left on) and deveined

1 tablespoon Cajun spice (such as Tony Chachere’s)

1/4 cup no-cook barbecue sauce (recipe follows)

Light a hot fire in a charcoal grill or set your gas grill to hot. Alternatively, you could use a stovetop grill pan. At the same time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Dredge the shrimp in Cajun spice to coat. Skewer shrimp on skewers. (If using bamboo skewers, soak in cold water for at least a half hour.) Grill them, turning, until the outside of the shrimp are marked with nice brown grids, but do not cook through (1-2 minutes per side).

Transfer the shrimp from the grill to a baking dish. Baste them on both sides with about 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the shrimp are just cooked through.

No-Cook Barbecue Sauce

Makes about 1 pint

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

6 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons A-1 steak sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight before using.


I have wanted to make Southern Living's hummingbird cake since I was in high school and finally got around to it. (Does anyone else have a never-ending stack of recipes they want to try?) This lightly-spiced cake is filled with bananas, pineapple, and pecans. It first appeared in Southern Living in 1978 and has since become their most popular recipe. I think Southern Living's cream cheese frosting is too sweet so I substituted Ina Garten's recipe instead. (I know, this is probably sacrilegious, but oh well.)


Hummingbird Cake

From Southern Living Magazine in 1978

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 ounces crushed pineapple in juice

2 cups chopped bananas (about 4 medium bananas)

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted, plus extra pecan halves for garnish

Room temperature butter for greasing the pans

For the frosting

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans, then line them with parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and toasted pecans. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn the layers out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioner’s sugar and mix until just smooth (don’t whip!).

To assemble, place one layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and spread with frosting. Top with the third layer, top side down and spread the remaining frosting over top and sides of the cake. Arrange pecan halves on top of cake in a circular pattern. Press chopped pecans into the sides of the cake. Serve at room temperature.


Get the Look:

I was so excited to find peony tulips at Whole Foods. I added in some ruffled pink tulips and love the combined look. Of course I had to match the wine to the flowers and this Summer in a Bottle rosé fit the bill perfectly. (It also tastes delicious. If you like a dry rosé, you'll like this.)


Thanks for reading!

- Sam

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