Friday, March 19, 2010

It's showtime on your plate

By Helen Klein

Easy and elegant, shrimp is a popular weeknight entrée in my home.

It’s quick to prepare, and a culinary chameleon, taking on the flavors of the ingredients with which it’s cooked.

It’s also appealing to the eye – the delicately curvaceous pinkish morsels, lazily curled into themselves, are simply as pretty as they are flavorful. With a supporting cast of colorful vegetables – peppers and zucchini and onions, oh my! — they can easily take center stage.

While fresh shrimp are clearly the best, most of what is available for purchase locally has been frozen.

With that in mind, I tend to buy shrimp that are still frozen, and keep them in my freezer, taking out what I need just before I plan to cook, and defrosting them as I shell them, under cold running water. The result, I find, is shrimp that are tender, not chewy, as some that are defrosted in advance may be.

For this dish, I was thinking Italian – Tuscany and north, to be specific, so there are no tomatoes here. Rather, the shrimp are enhanced with splashes of dry white wine and tart freshly squeezed lemon juice, which help blend the flavors of the seafood and the fresh vegetables.

I add the zucchini toward the end, to prevent it from being overcooked. Needless to say, if you have mushrooms or carrots, but no peppers or zucchini, you can easily substitute. You can also add chunks of tomato, if that’s what you have available.

A word to the wise, however, is in order. Harder vegetables should be added to the pan first, to allow them to cook through without overcooking the softer veggies. Of all vegetables, mushrooms should be added last, because the quantity of liquid they render will cause the other vegetables to stew, rather than sauté, if they are put into the pan early on.

Herbal notes are added with dried oregano and fresh flat-leaf parsley, and the sweetness of the veggies is intensified through the addition of a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.

Best of all, served up – with linguine dressed with garlic and oil, on the side, or saffron rice — the shrimp looks like you’ve spent hours slaving over a hot stove. If they only knew!



1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, preferably sweet, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 colored pepper, cored and cut into strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup dry white wine
½ zucchini, cut into half circles no more than ¼ inch thick
Juice of one lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, for garnish


Sauté shrimp in hot oil in large, non-stick pan till just pink on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Remove shrimp from oil and set aside. Sauté onion over medium high heat until golden and soft, salting the onion slices to help them render their liquid. Add pepper, and continue sautéing till pepper is soft. If necessary, as you cook, add a splash or two of water to the pan to prevent the vegetables from burning.

When the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute or two.
Return the shrimp to the pan and add pepper, oregano and white wine. Cook for 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat, till liquid has largely evaporated.

At this point, add the zucchini, and continue cooking till it is crisp-tender. Add lemon juice and cook another 1-2 minutes, to allow flavors to blend.

Serve, garnished with parsley.

Serves four.


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