Have you run out of fast and easy dinner ideas yet? I have. The earnest early days of September are now over and my intricate meal planning has disappeared along with any pretense of keeping up the shared family calendar. The desperate whirl of coming home, preparing a meal and then heading out the door for whatever the evening plans are have made me desperate for fast and easy meals that I can serve alongside a bowl of salad greens (prewashed of course!).
So I asked my mother for the absolute fastest dish she can think of making, that incorporates ingredients that I usually have in my fridge or freezer. A simple and savoury shrimp dish is the answer.
I happen to have many pounds of shrimp in my freezer because I bid on a lobster dinner at an auction, but the description neglected to mention that it also included 20 pounds of frozen shrimp. But if you aren't in the habit of buying, making or inadvertently filling your entire freezer with shrimp – I urge you to start. They barely need to be defrosted before a quick sauté and can be added to pasta, rice or a salad for a quick and healthy meal.
Now, there have been issues with shrimp production over the years: Particularly in Southeast Asia, the treatment of the workers, poor growing conditions on shrimp farms and environmental concerns have created a bad image. Today, cooks are looking for more responsibly sourced shrimp and that market is improving both internationally and closer to home.
Shrimp farming on land is a new sustainable business. In Ontario, we have several farms and First Ontario Shrimp in Campbellford grows about 300 pounds of shrimp a week (Lucy tried a sample that had great flavour and a slightly softer texture). Planet Shrimp in Aylmer grows Pacific white shrimp, which will be on the market in spring 2017, and it has Ocean Wise certification.
Adam Nikoletsos from City Fish in Toronto is bringing in frozen wild-caught Argentine shrimp that are pristine, and are what Lucy used for this recipe. They have a softer texture than black tigers but are very flavourful. Kristin and Dan Donovan of Hooked, also in Toronto, have sourced sustainable black tigers from Thailand. And the West Coast has spot and striped prawns.
Certainly the market is improving, but be aware of really inexpensive shrimp as they have no pedigree. It is always a good idea to get to know your fishmonger. Ask who their suppliers are so you can make informed choices.
This dish has a salty, savoury sauce with a little bit of a kick. If you don't want the spice of the jalapenos, leave it out, and finely diced onion can be used instead of the shallots. If you don't have any white wine open, vermouth works or add in some extra lemon juice. Emma has been known to throw in some frozen peas or spinach shreds into this dish so she can skip the salad.
Shrimp with feta and orzo
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 tbsp sliced garlic
1 tbsp seeded jalapeno pepper, cut in rounds
1 lb large shrimp, 21 to 25 size, peeled
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
Heat oil in large skillet on medium low heat. Add shallots, garlic and jalapeno and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly softened and garlic just begins to colour.
Raise heat to high, add shrimp and sauté until shrimp are just beginning to turn pink, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in wine, tomatoes and oregano and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in feta. It should be slightly chunky not totally melted. Season with pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and lemon rind.
Pile shrimp over orzo adding a little pasta cooking water if the pasta seems a bit dry.