Shrimply delicious: feast without guilt Easy: Shrimp are quick to fix and low in fat, and the frozen kind works as well as the ones from the grocery-store seafood case.

May 27, 1998|By Marge Perry | Marge Perry,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Some people get excited when the stock market goes up, others when they spot a rare red-winged warbler. I'll tell you what rings my bell, though: discovering a dinner I can throw together in minutes, love to bits, and eat as much as I want of without guilt.

I found it -- shrimp. You can make a fabulous shrimp dinner in well under 30 minutes. Shrimp are high in nutrients and low in fat and calories, so you can eat your fill without worrying about putting on weight or clogging your arteries.

I recently experimented with a variety of fresh and frozen shrimp. They were bought in combinations of tail and shell on, peeled and unpeeled, fresh and frozen, deveined and not. I timed shelling and deveining fresh shrimp vs. thawing frozen, and conducted side-by-side taste tests of fresh vs. frozen.

It's important to know that the fresh shrimp used as a basis of comparison were from a grocery store, not straight from the dock. Most shrimp sold in the grocery store have been previously frozen, then thawed under (we hope) optimal conditions before going on display in the fish case. It is rare for a grocery store to handle never-frozen shrimp. Nevertheless, we'll call the shrimp you buy in the case grocery-store fresh, and refer to the shrimp you buy frozen (usually in bags) as frozen.

The various choices were then rated for ease of preparation as well as flavor and texture. The goal was to see if spending more time upfront (such as peeling and deveining fresh shrimp) resulted in a more enjoyable product.

The result was a happy surprise: Frozen shrimp, which tends to be less expensive and is more convenient, tastes just as good as grocery-store fresh. A bag of shrimp in the freezer is a guarantee that you can have a delicious dinner on the table in minutes, even if you don't have time to get to the market. It requires no forethought and just a very short thawing period. There is virtually no loss of nutrients, and the shrimp are actually a little easier to peel when still slightly frozen.

A pound of frozen shrimp in the shell will defrost in a bowl of cold water in 10 to 15 minutes (just enough time to boil some pasta). You can cook the thawed shrimp in or out of the shell, depending on your preference. When thawed this way, the shrimp slip right out of the shell -- a pound will take you 7 to 10 minutes to peel, and you needn't devein them.

In fact, no matter how you buy the shrimp, bear in mind that deveining is generally more an aesthetic consideration than anything else. If your shrimp happen to have prominent black veins, you'll want to remove them. But if you can barely see a thread-like vein when the shrimp is raw, it will disappear by the time it's cooked.

Curried Shrimp With Melted Tomato Relish

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 onion, cut into thin strips

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled

1 pound tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine oil, curry, basil and salt in large nonstick skillet and cook over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Add onion and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes per side until bright pink and no longer translucent in center. Remove shrimp from skillet with tongs or slotted spoon.

Add tomatoes, vinegar and sugar to skillet and cook over very high heat 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft and starting to dissolve. Serve shrimp topped with relish.

Per serving: 207 calories, 2.7 grams dietary fiber, 6.2 grams fat (26 percent of calories), 1 gram saturated fat, 172 milligrams cholesterol, 471 milligrams sodium

Glazed Shrimp and Asparagus

Makes 4 servings

SHRIMP:

1 tablespoon sherry

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound shrimp, peeled

SAUCE:

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1/2 cup water

dash salt, freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 medium red pepper, finely diced

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

To prepare shrimp, combine sherry and cornstarch in bowl and mix well. Toss with shrimp and set aside.

To prepare sauce, combine cornstarch and Worcestershire and stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add tomato paste, hoisin, water, salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

Heat sesame oil in wok. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry 15 seconds. Add red pepper and stir-fry 15 seconds. Add asparagus and stir-fry 15 seconds. Add shrimp mixture and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add sauce and stir-fry about 4 minutes until shrimp turn pink and asparagus is crisp and tender. Remove from wok and add more black pepper to taste.

Per serving: 200 calories, 3.1 grams dietary fiber, 4.7 grams fat (21 percent of calories), 0.8 gram saturated fat, 172 milligrams cholesterol, 282 milligrams sodium

Greek-Style Shrimp With Feta and Oregano

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

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