Don’t Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier

Having had a long-time love affair with the books of Daphne DuMaurier, I was especially pleased to find a compilation of stories that included Don’t Look Now. The story, set in Venice, which is my favorite city on earth, combines creepy supernatural elements with the gorgeous backdrop of La Serennissima.

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The basic story is a couple, John and Laura, whose daughter has recently died, and who are visiting Venice in the hopes of coming to terms with her death. They encounter two odd old ladies – sisters and twins – who claim to be psychic and in contact with the dead daughter, and begin to have the strangest interactions with them. Cue the haunted house music here. John starts seeing a ghostly little girl in a red coat running around canals and over bridges, and at the same time, hears of gruesome murders happening in Venice.  His dead daughter died wearing a red coat so he thinks he is seeing her ghost.

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If you’ve ever visited Venice and seen it in both rainy weather and with the sun shining, you’ll understand that it seems two different cities. Venice in sunshine is beautiful, golds and pinks with the water reflections bouncing off the walls of the buildings that line the canals, and even the tourist chatter doesn’t detract from its charm. Seen with rain as the backdrop, it is a dark, haunted city with dead end corners, frighteningly loud echoes of footsteps in portegos, foggy lights reflected from the ornate lampposts around Piazza San Marco, and a pervasive sense of menace. I can tell you that if I was in Venice on a rainy, foggy day and saw some little girl running around like a haunt, hell no would I follow her.

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But I don’t like kids anyway. Anyhoo, Campari and soda, and scampi, are mentioned in a pivotal scene when John and Laura again meet the old ladies in a restaurant, so you get two recipes for the price of one in this week’s post! Lucky you!

“All right, thought John savagely, then I will get sloshed, and he proceeded to down his Campari and soda and order another, while he pointed out something quite unintelligible on the menu as his own choice, but remembered scampi for Laura. ‘And a bottle of soave,’ he added, ‘with ice.’ “

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I love to make scampi, and usually throw in a handful of sliced grape tomatoes in mine, for color and because tomato and shrimp have such a natural affinity for each other. Having recently bought some fresh green tomatillos at my local farmer’s market, I decided to make a variation of scampi with tomatillos. I know tomatillos are not traditionally Venetian, being much more used in Latin American recipes, but just think of it as my contribution to multiculturalism.

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INGREDIENTS

For the tomatillo scampi (adapted from this version at Simply Recipes, one of the BEST food blog sites out there)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 red onion, finely diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
Sea salt
6-7 tomatillos, husked, seeded and quartered
1 lb. raw shrimp, shells on
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 cup of clam juice or seafood stock
1 tomato bouillon cube
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Optional: 1 cup crumbled feta cheese or Cotija cheese. (I am told by my Italian friends that cheese is not eaten with shellfish or seafood, and were I cooking in Venice, I would leave it out, but half the fun is experimenting with flavors, so I did. Send the hate mail later.)

METHOD
Saute the onion, garlic and minced jalapeno pepper in the olive oil and butter, for about 10 minutes. Add a sprinkle of sea salt. Add the tomatillos, give a good stir to mix, and cook over medium-low heat for another 10-15 minutes.

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Add the wine and the clam juice, let simmer and reduce it to about half the original liquid volume.

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Now add the tomato bouillon. Stir to mix and cook another 5 minutes. Toss in the raw shrimp and lemon juice, and cook over low heat, until the shrimp turn pink and look plump and luscious. If you so choose, add your cheese here and allow the cooking heat to melt it slightly before serving, but if you do add cheese, make sure your liquid has reduced significantly, or this will be runny. If you omit the cheese, serve over rice or linguine pasta.

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Having tried Campari to see if it’s really as bitter as famously claimed, guess what! It’s bitter! But the color reminded me of Italian spritzers I drank with my friend Kate in Venice at a cafe on the Fondamenta Nuova, overlooking the lagoon and San Michele, so I tinkered around with the Campari, some gin, some lemon and a few other things, and came up with what I will call a Vanessa cocktail.

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For the Vanessa cocktail – makes two generous drinks so feel free to adjust ratios as needed
1 part Campari
1 part gin
1 part limoncello or fresh lemon juice
1 part Cointreau
1 part cranberry juice
Ice
Lemon rind twists for garnish

Add all the ingredients, except the lemon rind, into a shaker, with ice. Shake well to mix. Pour into chilled glasses and garnish with the lemon rind twists. Admire the color…….kind of like the red coat on the ghostly kid running around Venice, wouldn’t you say? Knock it back with a smile or a shudder, but don’t look now.

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25 thoughts on “Don’t Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier

  1. …hey, zola (sweet gorgonzola,) with scampi (or shrimp) is almost a classic pasta or ravioli…likewise ricotta (even more.) The drinks… I would reeaaally like right now, as in this moment….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? I’ve always heard from Italians that cheese and seafood don’t pair traditionally in classic Italian cuisine, which always seemed odd as they go so well together. Now I have permission from you to add gorgonzola to my shrimp next time I cook! Thank you. And if you make the drink, let me know if you enjoy it. I had a good time taste-testing it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ….don’t look now. Hmm. That’s the title of a thing done….well, quite some time ago. MAybe I’ll see if I can find an old file somewhere just to see the now changed point of view….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ….oh, sorry. No… a play (full length, 2 acts,) which had some interest but not enough to push into production, (only a recitation of the first scene.)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I love this story so much. The other one by her that I love is My Cousin Rachel. And of course, Rebecca. Thank you for the compliment on the scampi, too! The tomatillos really give it a great flavor.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for taking us to Venice! — And yes, despite of all the bad news from there, it is still the most fascinating city in the world. — P.S.: As today is E. Hemingway´s birthday, there is a double connection now to Venice. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

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      1. Agreed. We went to Harry’s Bar when we visited Italy in 2010 and I was not impressed. The Bellini was very small and had hardly any alcohol in it, and was INSANELY expensive! 22 euros! Ridiculous. But it’s one place checked off my bucket list. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh wow, what a great recipe! I love shrimp and tomatoes together, but have never thought of using tomatillos. Until now, that is. Yum! The book looks really creepy, so I guess I need to read it now. I assume there’s a movie version too, from the GIF you used? I think the movie and this recipe need to be on my to-do list for next weekend. Great post as always, Vanessa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Marianne! The tomatillos really are delicious and definitely add to the dish. If you watch the film or read the book, let me know what you think. Both of them are equally creepy and eerie.

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