- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shrimp has the reputation of being very expensive. When you want to celebrate, you put shrimp on the menu.

But if you’ve allowed this common conception shape your buying habits, take another look at prices in your supermarket’s fish counter. You’ll find that shrimp costs are comparable to those of many less “special” seafood selections.

Supermarkets often sell frozen and thawed shrimp at the counter. However, you can usually find shrimp bargains in the frozen food department. Buying a bag of frozen shrimp offers an advantage to Two’s Company cooks. You can thaw and use as much or as little shrimp as you want, and at your convenience.

The price will vary depending on how much processing the shrimp undergoes. Peeled raw shrimp costs more than shell-on. I don’t recommend frozen cooked shrimp in stews, soups or skillet dinners. The additional heating toughens the shrimp too much.

When preparing a stir-fry, thaw the shrimp first and get rid of any excess liquid so the oil doesn’t splatter, and the finished dish won’t be soggy. If you’re making soup or stew, you can add the shrimp frozen, but peeled.

Shrimp are so readily available and convenient that you can even use the seafood as an alternative to meat in some of your favorite recipes. For example, I often prepare the following eggplant, mushroom and bell pepper combination with ground beef, but substituting shrimp turns this everyday dish into an elegant, though quick and easy dinner.

Eggplant and shrimp skillet dinner

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 small onion, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 cup sliced shiitake and/or oyster mushrooms

6 to 8 ounces peeled raw shrimp

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup chicken broth, or more if necessary

1 cup cooked brown rice

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and saute for 3 minutes or until it starts to brown. Add onion, pepper strips and mushrooms. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add shrimp, garlic, oregano, cayenne, salt, pepper and chicken broth. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, or until shrimp are cooked through. If dish becomes dry before shrimp are cooked, add a little more broth. Serve over rice. Makes 2 servings.

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