Roasted Shrimp with Easy Romesco Sauce

As soon as we dropped our bags at the hostel in Barcelona last year, I was overwhelmed and over-excited about the whole wide world of tapas at my disposal. It was my first time visiting the city and in preparation I read obsessively about great markets, tapas bars and delicacies. I also paid particularly close attention to an Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episode all about Spain.

One thing Tony (yeah, I call him Tony) got to experience on his trip was some Spanish country barbecuing that involved sloppily drinking red wine from porrons (which I have been lucky enough to do at a bar in New York) and eating charred over-sized spring onions dipped in Romesco sauce. Way more than El Bulli, this is what I wanted my Spanish eating experience to be like.

When I saw these grilled-to-order greens on a menu I jumped at the chance to order them. Peeling off the blackened outer layer, dipping them generously in the sweet and nutty Romesco sauce, then throwing my head back to take a bite – I felt like I was living large.

In fact, I nearly made myself sick between gorging on those and fried peppers that first night. No biggie. That’s what I was there for.

Romesco sauce is excellent with seafood, chicken, eggs, as a dip for crackers and vegetables and as a spread on sandwiches. My easy version isn’t totally traditional, but the basics are there.

The roasted garlic shrimp below can also be tossed with pasta, chilli, olive oil and lemon, with rice and chopped roasted scallions, or over a lightly dressed mixed green salad. For this dish, I roasted some spring onions with my shrimp to take me back to Barca.

Garlic Roasted Shrimp
– 1 lb./1/2 kilo uncooked deveined shrimp
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1-2 cloves of garlic finely minced
– salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C. Toss shrimp with olive oil, minced garlic and salt and pepper.

Spread the seasoned shrimp out on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes – flipping the shrimp once after about 5 minutes cooking- until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.

Easy Romesco Sauce
3 whole roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
1/3 raw almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
pinch chili flakes
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a medium pan over the medium-low heat. once warm, add paprika, chili flakes and almonds. Toast almonds in seasoned oil for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Place roasted red peppers and garlic oil/almond mixture in a food processor and process until finely chopped and nearly smooth in consistency, adding additional olive oil if necessary. I like to keep mine a little chunkier, to get those toothsome bites of almonds.

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Prawn Saganaki

That just-showered post-beach feeling.
Listening to your favorite album on repeat.
A frosty glass of beer on a hot day.
Watching Marie Antoinette in bed while eating squares of dark chocolate.
Finishing a good book.
Coffee, just the right amount of milk and sugar.
Fresh herbs picked off of your own balcony.

You with me here?

I’m painting a picture of contentment.

My picture, anyway.

Perfectly toasted, garlicky slabs of sour dough slathered with a simple combination of fresh summer tomatoes, salty feta, and pink prawns.

Oh yes. I would put that in my sálon.*

I’m so glad prawn saganaki came into my life. It’s the perfect balance of fresh and warming flavors and it demands to be eaten with good bread.

And good bread is the key contentment. Always.

*Andre Leon Talley, I’m stealing your catch phrase. Count it.

Prawn Saganaki (serves 2)
Recipe adapted from Chef Greg Everett’s recipe at Box Fresh

- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– about 350 grams (3/4 lb.) of prawns, peeled and deveined
– 1/4 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
– pinch of red chili flakes
– 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
– salt & pepper
– 2-3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
– 1/4 cup combined fresh basil and parsley, roughly chopped
– good bread, sliced, toasted or grilled, and rubbed with a garlic clove, to serve

Heat oil in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add prawns, olives and chili flakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the prawns turn pink.

Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes until they just start to break down. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh pepper, to taste.

Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle with feta and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes until feta is melted.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with fresh herbs. Serve with garlic-rubbed toasts.

Notes:
This is meant to be made in a skillet of sorts, but I just used a pan with a heat-resistant handle. If you’re using a skillet, you can pop the entire thing into a hot oven for 2 minutes to melt the feta instead of covering over a low heat. 

Provençal Wheat Berry Salad with Prawns

Whole Grains are kind of a big deal. Everyone’s talking about them. You should eat them, you should cook with them and you should get to know different kinds.

That’s what they say, anyway. I don’t like being told what to do, but as a girl who likes to mix it up (in the kitchen, folks!) I’m more than happy to try something new.

(Plus, they are probably reputable nutritionists, so I should probably listen to them.)

Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernel minus the hull. This is good. They’re the real deal. They contain more good for you stuff because they haven’t been tampered with as much as something like flour.

They take a little while to cook, but it’s not any harder than cooking rice. Mine took about 45-50 minutes. They should be a little crunchy/chewy with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor.

What I like about these little guys is that they can hold their own in a dish and add a unique and satisfyingly chewy texture. In this salad they pull together chunky vegetables, a strong Dijon vinaigrette, and sweet grilled prawns without getting lost.

Provençal Wheat Berry Salad with Prawns and Dijon Shallot Vinaigrette
Closely adapted from Fine Cooking
Serves 2
– 1/2 cup dry wheat berries
– 1 cup green beans, trimmed
– 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
– 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
– 1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
– 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
– Salt & Pepper to taste
– 12 prawns peeled and deveined
– 1 tablespoons olive oil

Dijon Shallot Vinaigrette
Click here to find out more!
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
– 1/2 a medium shallot, finely diced
– 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
– 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon of water
– Dash Worcestershire sauce
– Salt & Pepper, to taste

To make vinaigrette: combine all ingredients in a jar, put the cap on and sh-sh-shake it.

In a medium saucepan, combine the wheat berries, a little salt, and enough water to cover by about 2 inches/5 cm. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat and cook at a simmer, partially covered, until the wheat berries are tender but chewy.
Begin checking after 45 minutes, though they may take up to 90 minutes. Drain the wheat well and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

Bring another medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add a sprinkle of salt and the green beans to the boiling water. Cook until just slightly tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, green beans, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, walnuts, chopped herbs, several grinds of pepper, and 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss thoroughly. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and vinaigrette.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan over high heat. Add the prawns in a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned on the outside and opaque throughout.

Toss the prawns into the salad and serve.

Notes:
If you cut the prawns lengthwise, they will go farther in the salad. I cut mine lengthwise after cooking, but you can do it before and they will cook even faster.

The best thing I ate this weekend

…was a grilled garlic prawn sandwich from the Mojo Picón Spanish food stand at EQ Markets in Moore Park. Cooked to order on a hot grill with a cumin-laced spice blend and topped with fresh parsley, these generous-sized sangers are heaven betwixt a fresh bread roll. The intoxicating scent of chorizo spices wafting across the market is enough to lure you to their stand. Once you’ve peered over the counter at the grill, you’re done for. Order a combo sandwich with both the chorizo and the prawns. Because life’s too short to choose.
Mojo Picón brand condiments are readily available right next to the much-needed napkins. The salsa verde, a green parsley and coriander sauce, refreshingly compliments the spiced meat and seafood and there is more of the cumin and paprika sauce too, if needed. My garlic prawn sandwich was huge, delicious and I ate the entire thing. All that was missing was a cold Spanish beer.
Mojo Picón can be found at the Sydney EQ Markets on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. And at the Chatswood Mall on Thursday and Friday. They also sell a range of cooking products including their special sauces. If you can’t get there, they have some recipes and sauces available on their website.

Prediction: I will be back again and again.
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