Shrimp dance with tropical fruit Memorable: Papaya and lime give tang to shellfish.

June 05, 1996|By JIMMY SCHMIDT | JIMMY SCHMIDT,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

Adding a tropical flavor in salsa to broiled shrimp with a rice side dish makes a meal to remember.

Shrimp have a wonderful, resilient texture and a sweet, delicate flavor. But they need a little shot of spice and acid to pick up their natural flavors. The combination of tropical papaya, lime, onions and herbs will elevate the flavor and your prestige to the top of the charts.

Although most of the shrimp available are frozen, one still should be picky on the quality and source. I prefer Gulf shrimp rather than many of the Asian imports.

As a rule, the bigger the shrimp, the more expensive they'll be. The sizing goes like this for headless, shell-on shrimp:

U-10s: fewer than 10 shrimp per pound: jumbo and expensive.

U-15s: fewer than 15 shrimp per pound: big and a little less costly.

U-20s: fewer than 20 shrimp per pound: good size and affordable.

Serve a half-pound of shrimp per adult.

When you select papaya and other salsa ingredients, choose the ripest papaya you can find, though most in the supermarket are still firm. Place the papaya in a paper bag a few days ahead of time to ripen at room temperature.

Select a Vidalia or other sweet onion so that the bite will not overwhelm the other flavors. Choose good limes and either fresh cilantro or chives.

The easiest way to peel shrimp is from the legs outward. Once you have the shell off, slice down the back of the shrimp about 1/8 -inch deep to remove the mud vein. Rinse them under cold water.

Toss the shrimp with a little olive oil and season them well before laying them on a broiler pan to cook, or reserving them for the grill.

Prepare the salsa ingredients as the recipe directs, but for a more professional look and taste, make sure you carefully, evenly and finely dice the vegetables and papaya. Also, after combining the papaya, red pepper, onion, lime juice, olive oil, herbs and seasonings, reserve them at room temperature while you cook the shrimp.

The rice takes the longest to cook, so start it first. A pilaf or your favorite flavored rice recipe will work great under the shrimp. Most recipes take 20 minutes, so set the table and have everything ready so you just have to cook the shrimp and serve.

When everything is ready, broil the shrimp until opaque and firm, about 6 to 10 minutes depending on size. Spoon the rice onto the center of a plate. Position the shrimp on top of the rice. Drizzle the salsa over the shrimp. Dust the top with the herbs and serve.

Here's a grilling trick: Take the seasoned shrimp and place them on water-soaked wooden skewers, about 6 or 8 together. Run a second skewer through the shrimp parallel to the first to make sure they cook evenly and are easy to turn. Cook on the first side until they start to brown, then turn over until done, about 5 to 6 minutes, depending on size.

Add a nice bottle of chardonnay and you've got dinner.

Broiled or grilled shrimp with papaya salsa

Makes four servings

2 pounds shrimp (size of your choice), peeled, deveined

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil, divided

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large papaya (2 medium size), peeled, quartered and seeded, diced

1 medium Vidalia onion or other sweet onion, peeled, ends removed, finely diced

1 medium sweet red pepper, washed, cored, seeded, finely diced

2 limes, rind grated very fine and then juiced

1/2 cup snipped fresh chives or chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 recipe rice pilaf (recipe follows)

Heat the broiler or grill.

In a medium bowl, combine the cleaned shrimp, 2 to 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil (just to coat lightly), salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a broiler pan or skewer for grilling.

In another medium bowl, combine the papaya, onion, red pepper, lime rind, lime juice and remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1/4 cup of the chives or cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve at room temperature while cooking the rice.

As the rice finishes, start the shrimp.

Broil the shrimp until opaque and firm, about six to 10 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp. Remove from broiler.

To serve: Spoon the rice into the center of warm serving plates. Position the shrimp over the rice in a circle around the plate. Drizzle the papaya salsa over the shrimp. Sprinkle the rest of the chives or cilantro across the top.

Per serving (without rice pilaf): calories, 432; calories from fat, 37 percent; fat, 18 g; cholesterol, 344 mg; sodium, 341 mg; carbohydrate, 21 g; protein, 47 g. Diabetic exchanges: 1 fruit, 1/2 vegetable, 7 very lean meat, 2 1/2 fat.

Rice pilaf

Makes four servings

3 cups light vegetable stock

1/4 cup virgin olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, peeled, ends removed, finely minced

1 small red onion, peeled, ends removed, cut into 1/4 -inch dice

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaf

1 cup long grain white or brown rice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil.

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