JeanMarie Brownson: Brighten up dreary days with herbed lemon shrimp skewers
Midwestern winters feel so gray that I seek remedies to brighten the day. A long phone call with my sister in sunny New Mexico, arranging the beach vacation photos, turning up the music; all help. My kitchen therapies involve fresh herbs. The bounty from my indoor hydroponic garden (or the produce section) just tastes like summer. A person can dream.
Shrimp, piled high with fresh herbs, brightened with lemon and arranged prettily on thin skewers just implores diners to smile. Around here, the cook grins from the ease of the preparation and the tasty rewards.
Don’t lose the motivation to cook shrimp when you see the prices. Instead, purchase frozen shrimp when it’s on sale. Know that most shrimp in the fish case has been previously frozen and thawed for convenience. The same thing we can all do at home. Frozen shrimp will keep in the coldest section of your freezer for a couple of months. To retain maximum flavor and moisture, thaw shrimp overnight (set the bag in a bowl to catch drips) in the refrigerator.
The key to responsible shrimp purchases? Know the store, trust their sources. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a global leader in the sustainable seafood movement, suggests purchasing shrimp certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, or most U.S. wild-caught and some imported wild-caught shrimp as well as responsibly-farmed shrimp from various locations around the globe. I look for the responsibly-farmed logo when shopping at Whole Foods. Their Mexican white shrimp and Pacific white shrimp taste great in the recipe that follows.
Shrimp size matters most when it comes to price. Generally, the smaller the shrimp, the less expensive. For skewers, the shrimp graded 26 to 30 pieces per pound makes for pleasant eating and quick cooking.
Firing up the grill on a cold, dry day practically begs the sun to shine. Keep the grill cooking times short on frigid days or opt for the broiler. For easy grilling or broiling, skewer the shrimp with double pronged metal kebab skewers or flat-bladed metal skewers to keep the food from flopping around when turned. Alternatively, soak bamboo skewers for a half hour or so in water before using; this helps prevent scorching of the skewer during cooking. Then, use two bamboo skewers for each kebab to firmly hold the shrimp in place while cooking.
Of course, you can skip the skewers and simply cook the shrimp on a perforated grill pan set directly over the heat source. If using the broiler, put the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet and position it 6 to 8 inches from the broiler heat source. Stir several times during the cooking.
Serve the shrimp skewers with pasta strewn with blanched broccoli, basil oil and fresh basil leaves. Tuck any leftover fresh mint leaves into sparkling water. Sunshine is near, I swear.
Herbed Lemon Shrimp Skewers
Makes 6 servings