Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dinner on the fly: Baja Shrimp Salad

When you play on two different slow-pitch softball teams and the Hubs plays on three, some weeks it seems like all we do is spend time at a softball field. But it's hard to complain. Softball is pretty decent exercise (as long as you don't undo all that calorie burning by drinking cold beer the whole time--sometimes it's hard not to). And I look at it as cheap entertainment.

This year, I've been doing better at planning dinners that are quick and easy and light for nights we spend a few hours on the field. Last night, we had a co-ed team double header at 6 pm, and the Hubs had a men's team double header at 8 pm. At least they were at the same place. So, I rushed home from work and got right to making dinner. We usually eat after our games, but that wasn't going to be an option last night, and I didn't want to get stuck with fast food for dinner.

I had some shrimp unthawed for something else I didn't end up making. I also had some avocados that were a little overripe, along with some limes and green onions. And, I'd bought a whole wheat french bread on Sunday at the grocery store that was marked "manager's special," meaning about to go past the expiration date. I am such a sucker for those "manager's specials."

I quickly threw together the ingredients, not sure what to expect. But it was surprisingly good. And it got better the longer it sat as those flavors kinda melded together. And it was filling! I think it would be good scooped over some salad greens or rolled up in a tortilla as a burrito.

Baja Shrimp Salad (makes 2 - 3 servings)

1/2 lb of U.S. wild caught Gulf shrimp*, peeled and deveined
extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup shrimp stock or white wine
2 avocados, diced
3 green onions, chopped
juice and zest from 1 lime
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, heat the oil on medium and add the garlic. Cook the garlic, stirring so it doesn't burn, until fragrant. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat with garlic and oil. Add the shrimp stock or white wine, turn heat to low and cover. In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Check on shrimp after a couple minutes--be careful, the will overcook easily. Once opaque and curled, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add to avocado mixture and stir well. For best results, let sit 20 minutes to 1 hour.

*I know I've talked about the importance of sustainable seafood here before, but I'll take every opportunity I can to get the word out. Health experts these days keep telling us we need to eat more fish, but those recommendations should come with a caveat. Some fish have dangerous levels of mercury in them that are ingested when they are eaten. However, probably most importantly, fisheries around the world are being squeezed to the point of collapse because of overfishing and detrimental environmental effects. It is of the utmost importance to ONLY eat sustainable seafood. The best tool I've found to aid in making sustainable choices in seafood is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Their website is fabulous, but they also have a FREE smartphone app, or a downloadable paper guide you can keep in your wallet.

Most of the shrimp served in restaurants comes from China or other Asian countries that has lower environmental standards for both shrimp farming and fishing. The good news is that seafood sold in grocery stores in the U.S. is required to have the country of origin on the package. The offerings are pretty limited at my local Kroger's. There are always what I call "standard" shrimp, or the Chinese shrimp, and U.S. wild caught Gulf shrimp. It either is labeled as "Key West Pink" shrimp or "Texas Gulf" shrimp. These are labeled as a "Good Alternative" by Seafood Watch.

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