shrimp with feta

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I recently got together again with friends Ruth, Toni and Velma for an afternoon of cooking.  Ruth found this delicious and easy recipe from The Contessa and we all agreed we should try it.  I must say it was very easy to put together, but then again, there were four of us in the kitchen sharing cooking duties.  We loved the beet and fennel salad we had last time we got together so much we served it again.  The roasted shrimp dish went really well with crusty bread, a nice Pinot Grigio and a sunny July early evening on the deck!

I recommend you watch this video of Ina Garten making this dish.  It illustrates just how how easy it is and shows how to make the fresh breadcrumbs.  I think it’s hilarious that she adds way more of certain ingredients than she specifies in the recipe like the wine, olive oil, parsley and lemon zest.  I like the way she cooks by feel vs. measuring.  🙂  We’ve adapted the recipe slightly, which you could easily do as well. I will also mention it says on the Food Network site that this dish serves 4.  I think that would be 4 very hearty eaters – four of us dined very well and still there were leftovers.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons EV olive oil, divided
1 1/2 – 2 cups medium-diced fennel (2 medium bulbs)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (unoaked)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Pernod, Anisette or Sambuca
1/2  teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 – 1 1/4 pound (16 to 20 per pound) raw shrimp, unpeeled and deveined
5 ounces good feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 lemons, one cut into wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10 or 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute till fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod, salt and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp in one layer over the tomato-mixture in the skillet. Scatter the crumbled feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp. Serve hot with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.

Notes on ingredients:

SHRIMP: The original recipe called for peeled, deveined shrimp with tails on.  We used unpeeled, deveined and cooked with the shell on thinking that it would add more flavor.  While this makes it more challenging to eat, it insures that the shrimp will be juicy and succulent.  I thought the specified amount of shrimp was a lot and will try this in the future with just one pound of either extra-large, as called for, or large shrimp.

PERNOD: None of us has Pernod or Anisette in our liquor cabinet, and we didn’t want to spend the $30 on a bottle just for a tablespoon.  Luckily Ruth had Sambuca. We had our doubts given the sweetness of that liqueur, but it worked beautifully.

FETA:  Try to find a solid piece of feta for this dish and crumble it by hand.  Crumbled feta comes packaged with cellulose powder or other anti-caking agents which affect how it melts.  I recommend French sheep’s milk feta, if you can find it, for it’s soft texture and great melting properties.  The Greek feta recommended by Ina is also good.

BREAD CRUMBS: We used a french bread that was on the softer side for the bread crumbs.  We processed it with the crust, which didn’t break down as finely as the inside of the bread.  I liked the texture this added to the bread crumb topping.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This dish (also called Shakshuka) is served throughout the Middle East and North Africa. There are many theories of where it originated, but it is common in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Israel, where it is thought to have been introduced by Tunisian Jews. Wikipedia notes that it rivals hummus and falafel for the “national dish” of Israel.  As you can imagine there are many variations on a theme with a dish like this.  The common ingredients are peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices plus the eggs.  Many recipes do not include the sausage and some, like this, emphasize tomato sauce over peppers.  I’ve made it with and without the sausage, depending on my mood and ingredients on hand.  I make Chakchouka mostly for dinner, but I know it is often served for breakfast and would make for a great brunch.

Margaux says…

We made this for the first time last night…or should I say, Jason made it (so he should probably be writing this!), and it was delicious!  We made it without sausage, and threw in a couple of zucchinis instead.  We both agreed that it would have been even better with sausage, but it was still good vegetarian.  We also both wanted more eggs with it, so I think next time we’ll do 6 eggs instead of just 4.  We love having eggs for dinner, and will definitely be making this again.  And the harissa really added great flavor!

Serves 4

The Pepper Stew

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 each, red and green bell pepper, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Merguez sausages, sliced in about 3/4-inch pieces (optional)

1 tablespoon Harissa

6 tomatoes, peeled & quartered OR

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

2 tablespoons fresh mint or parsley

Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Heat oil in large skillet.  Add onions and bell peppers and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Move the vegetable mixture to one side and add the sausages and cook for a few minutes. Add the Harissa and stir to blend. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook all gently for another 10 minutes or so until everything is soft.  Add the mint or parsley, or you can wait and sprinkle this on after placing on the plates.

Finishing with the Eggs

4 eggs

Make 4 indentations in the vegetable mixture and break an egg into each.  Cover the pan and cook gently for 5-7 minutes until eggs are set.  (I made an individual portion for myself since Randy was eating his stew without an egg – also delicious!)

Use a large spatula to scoop out a portion of the vegetables with an egg.  It should look like a nest on the plate. Sprinkle with the mint if you haven’t done this before and crumble the feta on top, if desired. Serve immediately with crusty french bread or toasted pita and a salad.

Cook’s Notes (Aunt Suzy): If you do not have Harissa, but would like a little heat, you could use hot sauce or add a minced jalapeno or serrano pepper with the garlic.  I would also add a little cumin if I did not use Harissa.  I am lucky to live near Clancy’s Meats which makes its own Merguez lamb sausage.  You can also order from Amazon by clicking on the link in the ingredient list. I think Andouille sausage or Spanish Chorizo might be tasty.  Or as I mentioned in the intro, this is very delicious without sausage at all.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

If you read our blog, you know how much we love cooked greens!  Even as a greens enthusiast, when I saw this post on a favorite blog, Green Your Plate, I thought it sounded like an odd use for cooked greens (even if it was adapted from a Rick Bayless cookbook)!  However, the recipe showed up on the very day that my neighbor gave me a big bunch of young kale.  Plus I had a bag of turnip greens leftover from a recent batch of Turnip Risotto and a pretty large piece of  leftover cooked salmon in the fridge.  Since I had everything on hand except the tortillas, I felt the cosmos was conspiring for me to make these!   Randy and I both agreed that we would make this recipe again . . .  maybe often.  These tacos are a great weeknight meal option, taking less than 30 minutes to prepare.  You’ll see in the notes on the ingredients that there’s lots of flexibility in types of greens, tortillas and salsas, so you can utilize what’s available at the market and on hand in your pantry.  Randy had a Pilsner beer and I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc – both good matches.

If you like greens, I recommend browsing through Green Your Plate  – Amy has several recent posts about the wonderful greens that are available at our farmer’s markets throughout the season, along with a recap of a demo she did at our main farmer’s market on cooking with greens.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 bunches greens (spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens or collards)

2 medium onions, thickly sliced in half moons

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

Water, as needed, up to 1/2 cup

Zest of one lemon

1 cup crumbled feta or queso fresco

Cooked salmon, chicken, Spanish chorizo or andouille sausage, optional

6 medium flour  or 10 corn tortillas

Salsa for passing

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS: 

Greens – If using tender or young greens, leave them whole.  If using tougher or more mature greens, remove the center ribs and chop into 2-inch pieces.  Swiss chard stems can be cut into 1/2-inch slices and sauteed along with the onions.  Tender greens will cook in 1-2 minutes and likely not require water other than that left on the greens from washing.  Tougher greens will take longer – up to 10 minutes for mature collards – and will need more water.

Tortillas – I recommend flour tortillas for bitter greens (kale, turnips, collards) and corn tortillas for sweeter greens (spinach, beet tops, chard).

Optional Fish/Meat – The salmon was delicious with the bitter greens and I think the chorizo or andouille would work with them also.

Salsa – I recommend smokey chipotle salsa for the best match for bitter greens.  I would use a lighter, fresher salsa for sweet tender greens – maybe even a pico de gallo.

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown, but are still fairly firm.  Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook for another minute.  Add the greens a little at a time and stir to wilt.  Add the water if using tougher greens – I used about 1/3 cup for the kale and turnip green combo.  Turn the heat down to medium and cover to cook till tender, but not mushy.  This took about 6 minutes for the kale/turnip greens.  Remove the lid and turn up the heat to cook off the liquid.  Add the lemon zest and remove the pan from the heat.

In the meantime, warm the tortillas in foil in the oven.  To assemble the tacos, place a little of the greens/onions mixture on a tortilla.  Top with the cheese and fish or meat, if using.  Pass the salsa.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I am always on the lookout for appealing and healthy things to eat for lunch given I work out of my home.  In the summer (finally here!!) I crave bean and grain-based salads with lots of flavor and color.  If you want proof, just click on Salads in our list of blog categories! The inspiration for making this recipe came from seeing it in the Linden Hills Co-op Deli.  After peeking at the ingredients, I realized I had all of them on hand.  This makes for a very nice lunch shown above with Cape Town Rooibos iced tea.  Today I had some cooked broccoli on hand and made the salad again with broccoli instead of spinach.  Equally delicious, if you happen to like broccoli.  Today’s lunch was the salad with broccoli, lemony quinoa salad with Tropical Green iced tea.

The Dressing

2-3 tablespoons EV olive oil

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

Salt and black pepper to taste

The Salad

1 large or two small cans of chickpeas (about 3 cups cooked)

2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped OR

1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked broccoli, roughly chopped

1 roasted pepper, diced

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

Drain and rinse the chickpeas if using canned. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except the feta cheese.  Add the dressing and gently stir to thoroughly blend.  Add the cheese and stir again to blend.  Or you can omit the cheese from the salad and add it once served.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a delicious casual meal for any occasion that’s a lot of fun to cook and serve for a crowd.  Think football playoffs!  My brother and I cooked these great pita sandwiches last Sunday and served them with a number of Mediterranean items – hummus, roasted chickpeas, olives, tabbouleh and Corfu salad.  We waited till half-time of the Bears-Seattle game to serve -my niece, Katie and her cousin make it clear who we were rooting for!  Good meal, great game outcome!  (Go Bears!!) Many sides work with these sandwiches and a peppery Cotes du Rhone or California Syrah works really well.

This recipe is comprised of several components – sauteed onions, red pepper-date relish, sausages, feta cheese – that can be assembled into the pita pockets to individual tastes.  Randy likes to substitute hummus for the feta and these can be made vegetarian by omitting the sausages.  These can also be served as appetizers on toasted regular (non-pocket) pita wedges, omitting the sausage. The amounts specified here served 7 people.  All quantities are adjustable to your taste and number of people.

The Onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

2 white onions, sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet.  When shimmering, add the butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the sliced onions.  Saute on medium-high heat stirring constantly until beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.  Set aside.  NOTE: I heard about a technique for slicing the onions that minimizes the stringy membranes.  Cut the onions in half length-wise and then slice in that same direction – from top to bottom rather than across.  Yellow onions can be substituted for the white.

The Pepper-Date Relish

3-4 roasted red peppers, sliced in lengthwise strips (about 1/4″)  and then in half

1/3 cup chopped dates

1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Sausages/Assembling the Sandwiches

8 sausages – lamb, merguez or flavorful chicken sausages

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, in chunks or crumbles

8 pita pockets, whole wheat recommended

A NOTE ON THE SAUSAGES: If you are near a Whole Foods, brother John discovered delicious lamb sausages from New Zealand in their freezer section – flavored with Sofrito.  Some Whole Foods have fresh lamb sausage.  I use either fresh-made merguez Moroccan lamb sausage or lamb-blueberry-pine nut sausage, both from Clancy’s Meats in my neighborhood – definitely worth a trip for you Twin Cities residents.  We also use some of the fully cooked, highly flavored chicken sausages found at places like Co-ops, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

DIRECTIONS: Cook the sausages according to directions till just done, but still juicy.  If it’s warm out, you can grill on either a gas or charcoal grill.  Cut into smallish pieces on the diagonal. Cut the pitas in half and wrap in foil and heat in the oven till warm.  To make the sandwiches, place the onions, sausages, red pepper-date relish and feta into a pita pocket half.  Enjoy!

Aunt Suzy says

My friend Karen Allinder put a picture of this on Facebook after one of her Five-Star Dinner Club gatherings and then sent me a message that I had to make it.  I had already made a mental note to ask for the recipe after seeing the picture!   I’ve been waiting until the time when cukes and watermelons are in our marketsat the same time.   I was a little suspect of adding cashews at first, but they provided a perfect crunch.  I tried it with and without the recommended feta cheese, and while I like it with, I prefer it without.  Try it both ways to decide for yourself.  Either way,  it is refreshing and delicious.

4 cups watermelon, 1/2-inch dice

1 cucumber, seeds removed, 1/2-inch dice

1/2 red onion, sliced and cut in 1/4 rounds

a handful of fresh mint, coarsely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

a handful of roasted, unsalted cashew pieces

a handful of feta cheese crumbles

Place the sliced onion in water to soak while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  Place the watermelon, cucumber and mint in a bowl.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  When ready to assemble the salad, remove these with a slotted spoon to another bowl (so there isn’t so much juice in the bottom).  Drain the onion and cut the slices in fourths.  Add the mint and the onions to the watermelon-cuke mixture and toss with the olive oil and lemon.  Immediately before serving add the cashews and the feta, if using.

Aunt Suzy says

I’ve discovered a great local Twin Cities area source for feta and other goat cheese, Singing Hills Goat Dairy.  Lynn Reech and Kate Wall raise goats and pigs and make cheese in Nerstrand, Minnesota, a beautiful area right next to one of our wonderful state parks, Big Woods.  They sell their cheese at the Mill City Farmer’s Market in Minneapolis which is where I first tasted and then purchased their cheese.

In my post on Baked Feta, I mentioned some places you could get slabs of feta cheese, but at that time I didn’t know about Lynn and Kate’s products.  I’ve also used their feta crumbles in several recipes, including  Chickpea Salad and Shaved Asparagus Pizza.  So I encourage you to go out to the Mill City market on a Saturday and get some of this delicious cheese!   They’re on the inside portion of the market toward the back.  You can also become a fan on their Facebook page.