This gorgeous shrimp dish deserves a standout name – one that conveys its steamy appeal, the freshness of its delectable sauce, its reassuring simplicity in preparation. Sort of a lazy cook’s bouillabaisse, this bright tomato stew offers the sunny Mediterranean flavors of lemon, feta and parsley. It’s as easy to make a half-pound of shrimp for two people or two pounds for eight. What kind of name says all that? Poetry it’s not, but “shrimp with tomato, lemon, feta and parsley” is assuredly more than the sum of its parts.
We had the best of friends visit last week, the kind of friends that are pure joy and no work. They live half a world away, and we met half a lifetime ago in New York City. They came to our wedding in California, we went to theirs in Germany. They moved to London, we moved to Silicon Valley. And we’ve lived parallel lives since: they had a boy, we had a boy; they had a girl, we had a girl; they had another boy, we had another boy. We visited them and agreed three was quite enough. But next thing we knew, they had another girl, and so did we. Four kids each, same ages and genders, and all of us getting together this summer for a week in Ohio.
The July week for our family summit had been on my calendar for many months, a bright spot in a dark year. I had looked forward to it for so long that as it neared I almost didn’t want it to start, knowing how quickly it would be over.
And it was bliss: each matched pair of kids playing together all day and crashed out side-by-side at night, relaxed parents watching, laughing, visiting. My kids practiced their British accents and giggled learning potty words in German. Their kids loved riding down the driveway in my in-laws’ giant pickup truck that would take up both sides of the road in London.
The kitchen ran nonstop. This meal – thrown together quickly after my resourceful friend spotted a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer – was a culinary highlight in a week of fresh, simple, abundant food.
The glow of this visit will carry me through the next year, reminding me that true friendship transcends time and proximity, that compatibility is a rare gift, that shared experience with loved ones is the very essence of life. And this dish will always be here to transport me to that happy place.
Two cooks in the house are better than one. My friend cooked this dish while I made food for kids and took pictures. She halved a pile of sweet grape tomatoes and squeezed fresh lemons for juice. And chopped plenty of fresh garlic brought from my mom’s garden in California.
A big bunch of parsley.
All assembled for a quick cook.
A hot olive oil bath for the garlic.
Add tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and generously with freshly-ground black pepper.
Next shrimp. No need to thaw if frozen.
Lemon juice. White wine or vermouth if you like too.
Cook until shrimp are just pink. We like our tomatoes still chunky.
Only takes a couple of minutes.
Now stir in feta and parsley, saving some of each for garnish.
More parsley on top. Or garnish individual servings if you prefer.
We put the whole pot on the table for casual serving.
And then we all dug in with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the generous sauce. Easy, impressive and magnificently good.
I was going to name the dish after my friend, who adapted it from her friend’s South African cookbook, but putting “shrimp” next to her name sounded more like an insult than a compliment. Let me know if you think of a worthier name for this lovely meal.
[Note 8/2/12: Thanks to my dear Greek friend Alyssa, who says this is shrimp saganaki, a Greek appetizer made with tomatoes and feta. I think she is absolutely right, though lemon seems to be a departure from the traditional Greek preparation.]
Shrimp with Tomato, Lemon, Feta and Parsley
This gorgeous dish assembles in minutes. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the creamy pink sauce, or you’ll have dinner guests licking their plates.
- 5-6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- Olive oil
- 2 pounds grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
- 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (fresh or frozen)
- 6 ounces crumbled feta
- 1 large bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Wash and halve tomatoes. Set aside.
- Wash and shake dry parsley. Run knife along the bunch to remove leaves from thick stems. Chop leaves coarsely.
- Place shrimp in a large colander and rinse well under cold water.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cooking pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and stir with wooden spoon. Add tomatoes and stir, cooking briefly to release juices. Season lightly with salt and generously with freshly-ground black pepper.
- Add shrimp and lemon juice, stirring to incorporate all the shrimp into the hot liquid. When shrimp is pink (only takes a couple of minutes), add most of the feta and parsley, reserving some for garnish. Stir and remove from heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Serve on rimmed plates or in shallow bowls, garnished with parsley and feta and plenty of crusty bread alongside.
- This would also be wonderful tossed with pasta.
- Add a splash of dry vermouth or white wine with the lemon juice for variation.
- If your guests are game for the activity at the table, whole shrimp with peel on would add more shrimp flavor to the sauce. Just make sure you put out bowls for shells and finger bowls with water for cleanup.
- My mom, who is very picky about her shrimp, feels that among farmed shrimp from Asia, Vietnam is best, Indonesia is ok and Thailand is not good. Check around for good sources. Poor-quality farmed shrimp can have a bland flavor, soft texture or even a chemical taste.
- For two people, use 1/2 pound shrimp, 8 oz tomatoes, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 cloves garlic. Feta and parsley to taste.
- For four people, use 1 pound shrimp, 1 pound tomatoes, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2-3 cloves garlic. 3 oz feta and 1/2 bunch parsley, or to taste.
Here’s the link to a printable version.