When I was growing up, my mother served shrimp for special occasions. They were delightfully sweet and briny, resilient yet fabulously succulent. But years ago, these little sea creatures changed, the flavor disappeared, the texture became mushy, and they were available everywhere, including at inexpensive eateries. Except for giant Pacific and Canadian spot prawns presented at the best restaurants, shrimp were no longer special.
I had read and heard arguments against eating inexpensive shrimp- environmentally unsound farming and fishing methods are employed to produce this low cost product. It wasn’t until a visit to a fish farm in Southeast Asia that I truly grasped the situation. One look at fish swimming listlessly in fetid brown water, and I understood why I had stopped liking shrimp, and recognized the toll on the ecosystem.
However, shrimp as enticing as those I enjoyed as a kid are available, and these delicacies are sustainable. Shrimp farms in the US and Canada are clean and exercise sound practices, and the US and Canada utilize ocean friendly methods to harvest wild shrimp from pristine waters. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website offers more details, but to make shopping easy, I suggest looking for farmed or wild caught shrimp from the US (including the US Gulf of Mexico) and Canada.
I find tasty, tender pink shrimp from Key West in the frozen seafood section at Whole Foods Markets, and US Gulf of Mexico shrimp at Santa Monica Seafood. They are more costly than varieties imported from Southeast Asia, and definitely worth the expense. I keep a bag of the frozen shrimp in my freezer, for quick to put together celebrations, such as last Friday, when we wanted to mark the end of the week with a special dinner at home.
These shrimp are so tasty they need little help from the cook. I like to quickly sauté them with aromatic shallots, rich tomato paste, zesty red pepper flakes, and a little tart lemon juice. A big bowl of delicate orzo mixed with bright green broccoli rabe shows off this festive dish.
Shrimp Sauté with Orzo and Broccoli Rabe
Orzo and Broccoli Rabe
- 2 bunches broccoli rabe or rapini, about 12 ounces total, tough stems trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2/3 cup gluten-free orzo pasta
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 12 ounces shrimp, such as farmed or wild caught shrimp from the US (including the US Gulf of Mexico) or Canada, peeled and deveined
- For the orzo and broccoli rabe: Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until almost tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli rabe to a medium bowl. Add the orzo to the water and cook until almost tender but still firm to the bite, about10 minutes. Return the broccoli rabe to the pot to heat through, and then drain the orzo and broccoli rabe well. Return the orzo and broccoli rabe to the hot pot and mix in the oil, thyme, and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp: Warm the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and red pepper and sauté 30 seconds. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked through, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Place the orzo mixture in a warmed bowl. Top with the shrimp and serve right away.