Summer meals seem to be made for shrimp and prawns. Both are aquatic arthropods, part of the broad class of Crustacea that also contain lobsters and crabs. However, prawns are not just big shrimp. They differ in means of reproduction and number of claw-like legs. A prawn will have three pairs of legs, while even a very large shrimp will manage with only one pair. This may appear to be a trivia fact once they are served cooked in a dish, but may be used as a quick means for identification at a seafood market.
Asian cuisine is famous for their shrimp dishes, especially from China, Thailand and Vietnam, with succulent tempura shrimp being a specialty from Japan. Imported shrimp are usually farm raised. Much of the wild caught shrimp in the U.S. come from coastal waters, especially from the Gulf coast, where one can still see different sizes of typical shrimp boats at the dock, with their high held graceful nets. With the Gulf coast in mind, here is a colorful and delicious recipe that evolved recently in my kitchen.
Creole Shrimp Jambalaya
Set aside the following vegetables: 1 small zucchini cut in 1 inch dice; 1 thinly sliced large shallot; 1/2 seeded and julienned green pepper; 2 chopped Roma tomatoes; 1 cup frozen corn kernels; 2 chopped garlic cloves; 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas.
Shell and devein 12 oz. fresh or frozen large shrimp.
In a large pan heat 1 tbsp each olive oil and butter. When hot, but not smoking, sauté the shrimp with 1/2 tsp salt and one of the chopped garlic cloves until pink, 1 to 2 minutes on a side and remove from the pan.
Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and cook the zucchini, shallot, and pepper with stirring for 5 minutes.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, 1 chopped garlic clove, 3/4 cup water, peas, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp each: Creole seasoning, fish sauce, and lime juice. Cook for 5 minutes. Add a shake of red pepper flakes if you like it quite spicy.
Return shrimp to the pan, cook for 1 minute, stir in the corn kernels and cook until heated through for another 2 minutes. Serve hot with pasta or rice. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves.
Shrimp salad makes a refreshing meal on warm days, either served on toast or lettuce leaves. This salad is usually made with a mayonnaise dressing, but in the following recipe for a pretty composed salad, a tangy lime and mustard dressing picks up the combination with bright flavors.
Tangy Lime Shrimp Salad
For the dressing: in a blender puree until smooth: 2 tsp chopped shallots, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tsp capers, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp sugar. Whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil
Cut 12 large, cooked shrimp in three pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1 large avocado cubed the same size as the shrimp and enough of the dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In another small bowl toss 1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese, with 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 tbsp capers and 1 tbsp of the dressing.
Cut bib or leaf lettuce in strips to make 1 cup.
To assemble the salad: slice some vine ripened tomatoes in very thin slices and set around the edges on four medium plates, leaving the center open. Place a 1/4 of the lettuce in the center of each plate, top the lettuce and part of the tomatoes with the Feta mix. Top the lettuce with the shrimp and avocado mix and drizzle all lightly with additional dressing. Garnish with chopped chives.
“Shrimp boats is a-comin’, their sails are in sight….The shrimp boats is a-comin’, there’s dancin’ tonight,” sang Jo Stafford.
(I. Winicov Harrington, of Waldoboro, is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)