Still Life with Shrimp, Ramps, Flowers, and a Glass, Franz Ykens, 1601-1693.
When I was a kid, shrimp was special. Not as special as lobster, but up there. Spaghettini with shrimp was for Christmas Eve, period. So was shrimp “scampi,” made with breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic, white wine, and, inexplicably, butter. Shrimp scampi was too good for olive oil. And my family sometimes found it with the heads still intact, usually on Arthur Avenue, in the Bronx. That was just too much excitement. Now shrimp is all over the place. Sometime soon I’m expecting to see it at Dunkin’ Donuts, worked into an ice cream topping, maybe.
I’m bringing this up because I’m confused by the abundance of shrimp. I figured wild shrimp would be better than farmed, but after some research, now I see that that’s not so clear. The wild shrimp I most often find are from Colombia, and they and many other foreign wild shrimp are caught with trawl nets that take up all sorts of other sea life with them, such as endangered sea turtles.
Farmed shrimp from Asia and South America are, for the most part, not sustainable. They threaten wetlands and are given hormones and, because of their bacteria-laden environments, antibiotics. Shrimp farms are now cropping up in the U.S., and I hope we can look to them to provide a healthier, better regulated alternative. I’d ideally like to eat fresh East Coast shrimp, but those seem hard to locate even in season. I’d pay more for them and eat them less often.
If we don’t want to eat garbage and damage our already fragile earth, we cooks need to keep on top of this. At the moment, what places are the worst offenders? China? Venezuela? When I’m in doubt, I check at http://www.seafoodwatch.org, where I obtained much of the info for this post. I’m still perplexed when I go to my fish shop and see eight kinds of shrimp, all from different countries, some farmed, some wild. It’s a shame. Shrimp is a delicious low-carb food that has served as the base for some of my best culinary whims. I want to eat it, and I love it, so you can be sure I’ll be keeping up on this issue and passing along to you what I learn.
Back to the fine low-carb beauty of this recipe. While probing my culinary bean for a side dish to go with these shrimp, I immediately thought of faro or wheat berries, but since those aren’t on my low-carb program, I had to search deeper. Zucchini is a vegetable I reach for when I want something rich but not a potato. It has a solid presence, a gentle taste, and soaks up sauce well. And in summer you’ve got tons of it.
You’ll need two short metal skewers for this recipe.
Grilled Shrimp Spiedini with Rosemary Salsa, Zucchini, Leeks, and Fennel
For the rosemary salsa:
3 large sprigs rosemary, the leaves well chopped
4 large sprigs flat leaf parsley, the leaves well chopped
1 summer garlic clove, minced
A pinch of sugar
The grated zest from 1 lemon
The grated zest from 1 orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For everything else:
6 to 8 jumbo shrimp (3 to 4 per person, depending on desire), peeled and deveined but with the tails left on
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
Piment d’espelette dried red pepper
A pinch of sugar
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium summer zucchini, cut into thin rounds
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into thin rounds
2 young summer leeks, cleaned, the white part cut into thin rounds
2 anchovy fillets, minced
A squeeze of lemon juice
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the salsa together. Let sit at room temperature while you proceed with the recipe.
Put 3 or 4 shrimp on each skewer. Season them all over with the fennel, salt, a decent sized pinch of pimenton, depending on how spicy you like it, and the sugar, pressing the spices into the shrimp. Stick the shrimp back in the refrigerator.
In a large skillet, heat a little olive oil over medium flame. Add the zucchini, fennel, and leeks, all at the same time. Add the anchovy, and season with a little salt and more generously with black pepper. Sauté quickly until the vegetables have a golden edge but are still holding their shape, about 5 minutes. Give them a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.
Put a stove-top grill pan over high heat (or use an outdoor grill).
Drizzle the shrimp with just a touch of olive oil. When the grill is hot, lay the skewers on it, and grill quickly until the shrimp is just browned, about 2 minutes on each side. That’s for real jumbos. For smaller ones, you’ll want to cut down the time. Keep them juicy.
Set out two plates. Spoon some of the zucchini onto each plate. Place a skewer next to the zucchini. Drizzle some of the rosemary salsa on top.
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