…and never more so than in today’s preparation, Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp. When the late Gourmet highlighted this recipe in its November 2008 issue, things nearly went no further, as many cheeses, feta among them, don’t inspire much personal enthusiasm. That said, it is a shrimp dish, and that particular feature warrants investigation. Years later, here we are.
It turns out feta is a crucial element, as its briny tanginess brackets the mild sweetness shrimp, tomatoes and cinnamon bring. The cheese doesn’t negate these flavors, but it does construct the stage on which they dance. Garlic and onions (or in this case, shallots) enrich the profile by drawing from from both groups, and also by adding traces of astringency that excite the other flavors.
A quick jaunt in the oven blends these tastes and adds a light toasty char. Finally, dill introduces an herbal greenness, of course, which recalls the rolling pastures just beyond the coast. Oregano is a personal add-on that provides a sweet and slightly dark uniqueness that compliments the tomatoes in particular. This was a fortunate whim, in fact, as Greek Oregano grows in the herb garden.
Ultimately, Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp is more than a little reminiscent of a Greek seafood pizza, but without the bread. Choose a crusty loaf to accompany this, and the similarity is even more complete.
Naturally, though, shrimp is what elevates this to immortality. Over the months, the shellfish even has displaced poultry as a passport opening the world’s cuisines. It has been with us as we stopped in Tahiti, Spain, Peru, New Orleans (twice, actually), Japan, France, Vietnam and Cambodia, among other destinations. Where next?
Of course, shrimp’s wonder isn’t that it has taken us near and far, but that it’s brought feta to these pages. It overcame that considerable despite to create something that lasts. A delicious way to prove the platitude.
Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp
- 1 medium onion, chopped (*1)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (*2)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes in juice
- pinch of sugar
- 1 and 1/4 pounds of shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened, about five minutes.
Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes, including the juice, and the sugar. Simmer uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir the shrimp into the tomato sauce. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with feta. Cook for 20 minutes, sprinkle with dill, and serve.
1 – Of course, you know what I’m going to suggest. This is the same as two medium shallots.
2 – Canned flakes do the job well enough, but if you have a chance to grind dried pepper, even better. The taste is noticeably improved.