One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

-Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, "Pavarotti, My Own Story"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shrimp Saganaki

Put a Greek and a Turk in a room together and it is pretty much inevitable that they will start quibbling about food, more accurately the origins thereof. "We invented baklava!" will cry the Greek. "Yeah, right!" will scoff the Turk. "And don't forget that feta is Turkish!" So on and so forth. Of course, with centuries of interlinked history, it's probably impossible to determine where anything originates. There is one thing though that I cannot quibble over: The Greeks' addiction to feta far outweighs the Turks'. They throw it in everything! Pastries, salads, even seafood gets its share of salty cheesy goodness. My Greek friend C. always says that I can't make proper Greek food until I get baptized. My sneaky plan is to blind him to my lack of religious initiation by putting extra feta on his plate! 

One classic Greek dish that puts feta to great use is shrimp saganaki. At its base a simple preparation of shrimp cooked in tomato sauce, it is topped with nubs of cheese that give it a delectable creamy, salty quality. Yet for me, the star of the dish is not the feta but the spices in the tomato sauce. Cinnamon and allspice taste, to my Turkish palate, pretty exotic when mixed with shrimp and tomatoes, but the combination has a comforting aroma that will have you wiping every drop of sauce off your plate with bread. 



Shrimp Saganaki
Adapted from here. Only use fresh tomatoes if they are in season, i.e. in the summer. To obtain pulp from fresh tomatoes, halve them and rub the cut side against a box grater until you are left with the peel. Serve with bread. Serves 4.

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, or pulp from 7-8 medium tomatoes (800 g)
1 1/4 lb (500 g) peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 lb (125 g) good quality feta, crumbled

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, cook for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add garlic, cook for another minute. Stir in spices, cook for 30 seconds.

2. Add tomatoes and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. 

3. Add shrimp. Simmer until shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

4. Top with feta and serve. 


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