Summer meals seem to be made for shrimp and shrimp. Both are aquatic arthropods, part of the large class of crustaceans that also contain lobsters and crabs. However, shrimp aren’t just big shrimp. They differ in the means of reproduction and the number of claw-shaped legs. A shrimp will have three pairs of legs, while even a very large shrimp will get by with just one pair. It might sound like an anecdote once they are served cooked in a dish, but can be used as a quick means of identification in a seafood market.
Asian cuisine is famous for its shrimp dishes, especially from China, Thailand and Vietnam, with the succulent tempura shrimp being a specialty of Japan. Imported shrimp are generally farm-raised. Much of the wild shrimp caught in the United States comes from coastal waters, especially the Gulf Coast, where different sizes of typical shrimp traps can still be seen on the dock, with their graceful, tall fillets. Thinking of the Gulf Coast, here is a colorful and delicious recipe that has recently evolved in my kitchen.
Creole shrimp jambalaya
Reserve the following vegetables: 1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice; 1 large shallot, minced; 1/2 green pepper, seeded and cut into julienne; 2 chopped Roma tomatoes; 1 cup of frozen corn kernels; 2 garlic cloves, chopped; 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas.
Shell and Devein 12 oz. large fresh or frozen shrimp.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter. When hot, but not steaming, sauté the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and one of the chopped garlic cloves until pink, 1 to 2 minutes aside and remove from the pan.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the zucchini, shallot and pepper, stirring for 5 minutes.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, 1 chopped garlic clove, 3/4 cup of water, peas, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons each: Creole seasoning, fish sauce and lime juice . Cook for 5 minutes. Add a red pepper flake shake if you like it spicy enough.
Return the 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 hot-weather meal, served on toast or lettuce leaves. This salad is usually made with a mayonnaise dressing, but in the following recipe for a pretty mixed salad, a tangy lime mustard dressing picks up the combination with some lively flavors.
Lime Shrimp Salad
For the vinaigrette: in a blender, reduce to a smooth purée: 2 tsp of chopped shallots, 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice, 1 tsp of capers, 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp of sugar. Stir in 1/3 cup olive oil
Cut 12 large cooked shrimp into three pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1 large avocado cut into cubes the same size as the shrimp and enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In another small bowl, combine 1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 tbsp capers and 1 tbsp dressing.
Cut bib or leaf lettuce into strips to make 1 cup.
To assemble the salad: cut the ripened tomatoes into very thin clusters and arrange them around the edges on four medium plates, leaving the center open. Place 1/4 of the lettuce in the center of each plate, garnish the lettuce and some of the tomatoes with the Feta mixture. Top lettuce with shrimp and avocado mixture and drizzle lightly with additional dressing. Garnish with chopped chives.
“The shrimp boats are coming, their sails are in sight… The shrimp boats are coming, there is dancing tonight,” sang Jo Stafford.
(I. Winicov Harrington, of Waldoboro, is the author of “How to Eat Well and Healthy for Under $ 5.00 a Day: The Smart, Thrifty Eating Plan.” For more information, visit winicov- harrington.com.)