Shrimp with Tomatoes, Fennel, Feta and Ouzo

July 25, 2013

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Hands on time: 20 minutes

By this point in the summer, I’m looking for a dinner that requires little to no cooking. This is that meal.

If you’d like to visit the Greek Isles this year but can’t come up with the airfare, this dish summons the spirit of those white stucco houses with blue roofs perched on the edge of an impossibly-blue water filled volcano. And it’s fast. Just a two minute boil for the shrimp and your meal is practically on the table. A quick chop of fresh oregano, parsley and fennel tossed with grape tomatoes, feta and arugula rounds out this Greek inspired salad spiked with ouzo and a simple garlicky vinaigrette.

Shaving the fennel on a mandoline will result in whisper thin slices that break down quickly in the vinaigrette. I like how it wraps, spaghetti-like around the shrimp. If you’d like your fennel to be a little more on the crunchy side, just slice it thinly with a knife. And there’s lots of room left in this ingredient list for interpretation. Add kalamata olives, cucumbers or even boiled potatoes for more heft. Swap out romaine for the arugula or calamari for the shrimp. You are the boss of this salad and don’t you forget it.

The ouzo plants a real kick of anisy flavor so be sure to use it if you can. But, the shrimp is the hero of this plate so look for the freshest, juicy sweet specimens you can find. Oh, and be sure that you don’t overcook them. No more than two minutes or they turn to rubber.

Shrimp with tomatoes, fennel, feta and ouzo is a great way to kick off the weekend. Try it for a Thursday-almost-made-it-to-the-weekend dinner. It’ll seem like you’re already there. Oh-pahhh!

It’s that easy: Talk to your fishmonger about the shrimp and see what he says about the wild versus farmed shrimp. I’m not a big fan of the cheap farmed varieties from Indonesia as their taste is somewhat metallic and their color a suspicious blue. It will cost a few dollars more, but my money is on the wild shrimp as it’s going to taste more like shrimp is supposed to taste not to mention the support for our shrimp fishing industry. Most often you’re ahead of the game to buy shrimp frozen in the one or two pound bag from the freezer case and just thaw them yourself. Unless you’re at the shore, shrimp has been frozen at least one time already. Wouldn’t you rather receive it flash frozen from the boat rather than lingeringly thawed for a few days in the cold case?

Serves 2

12 oz/350 g, 26-30 shrimp, uncooked, peeled, deveined, tails removed
1 tbsp/30 ml salt plus 1/4 tsp
2 tbsp/30 ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp/30 ml Ouzo
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp/45 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
2 tsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 head thinly shaved fennel (use a mandoline if you have one)
20 halved grape tomatoes
2 tsp chopped capers, rinsed
2 handfuls arugula
4 oz/115 g feta cheese, crumbled

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the 1 tbsp of salt and the shrimp. Boil for 2 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through. Drain the shrimp and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Scoop the shrimp from the water and pat it dry.

Combine the remaining salt, vinegar, ouzo and garlic in a large bowl and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Whisk in the pepper, oil, oregano and parsley.

Combine the shrimp, fennel, tomatoes and capers with the dressing. Toss gently to mix and correct the seasoning with more salt or pepper as desired.

Arrange a handful of arugula onto 2 chilled plates and top with the shrimp and vegetables. Sprinkle the feta over all.

Try this salad for another day when tomatoes are at their peak.

Extra hungry? Drizzle a few slices of sourdough bread with olive oil and slide them in the toaster until browned. Rub with a clove of garlic and serve alongside the salad.

In the glass: A Greek white would be nice. Look for a refreshing and mineraly assyrtico from Argyros Santorini or Santorini Atlantis both for under $20.

In my ears: Robin Thicke and Faith Evans


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