Fall is so real life.
On September 3rd, the world collectively pulled a Band-Aid and we all got shoved out of the lazy, hazy days and into the totally crazy days. Email, meetings, bills, chores, pumpkin spice, and ‘Skins disappointments have swallowed up all of the hours of my day. There’s barely time to exercise our Netflix account or read cookbooks. With each day packed with this much B. to T.C., the shiny golden slip of time between when I get home and when we resume our binge watching of Breaking Bad (only on Season 3 – no spoilers, please!) is sometimes so small that there’s no way I can make dinner. Or at least, no way I can make a dinner for two grown-ups, which means scrambled eggs, PB&J, and reheated pigs in blankets don’t count. However, if I have 15 minutes, I know I have time to make this shrimp and feta dinner. If I have 20 minutes, we can have orzo, too. Sitting down to this bright and creamy plate of shrimp after a full day of dealing with fall makes me feel like I’m the boss.
Shrimp have become one of my go-to’s for easy weeknight meals. I rely on the convenience of a frozen bag of shrimp to doll up a meatless entrée, round out a veggie-heavy meal, or serve as a base for a light dinner. Jessica agrees. In fact, just as with our banana muffins a couple of months ago, coincidentally, we happened to be both planning on blogging about easy shrimp meals. We decided to present you with back-to-back shrimp dinners, because one can never really have enough.
I found this recipe in Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, but it’s not a recipe that seems like it came from a cookbook. It seems more like one of those things you see a friend do and you raise an eyebrow, but then beg for the recipe once you taste it. You start by heating some oil in a skillet over medium heat, then you add garlic for 1 minute, max. Toss in the shrimp, lemon juice, feta, hot pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and stir occasionally until the shrimp are cooked through (might be as short as 3 minutes). Throw in a big pinch of fresh basil and serve. It’s not fancy or even very pretty, but it’s packed with flavor. The feta melts into the oil and lemon juice to create just enough sauce to drape the shrimp and pool in the bottom of your bowl. You’ll need bread for sopping or, if you have time, some orzo. I’ve tried other pastas with this shrimp and they are all too greedy about soaking up the delicate sauce. Little, unobtrusive orzo is content to be slicked in the sauce, but never absorbs more than its fair share. So polite.
The good and the tricky thing about shrimp is that they cook ridiculously fast. Remember that old ad campaign for nail polish, “By the time you get to your pinky, your thumb is dry?” That’s how this dish works. By the time you flip your shrimp, your dinner is done (almost). Prep for the dish starts like most: mince garlic, measure cheese, thaw shrimp, chop basil. Once you start putting things in the pan, it comes together in a heartbeat. There’s not enough time to start a side dish if you’re already heating the oil. Most recently, I was caught still whisking my dressing when I realized the shrimp were done. I hadn’t even taken the salad ingredients out of the fridge yet. Truthfully, we almost never have a side dish with this meal because I’m almost always serving it on a night when time is scarce. I mean, who has time for salad when there is apple picking to plan, episodes of Boardwalk Empire to catch up on, and the Red Sox are strutting into the postseason? I love fall.
shrimp with lemon and feta
adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark
I’ve often thought that diced tomatoes would be wonderful in this dish, tossed in when the feta is added. Ms. Clark adds capers in her recipe, so if you’re a fan of brine, you might want to try that addition, too.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/3 cup crumbled feta
juice of 1/2 lemon
large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
lemon wedges for serving
1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until it’s fragrant, but don’t let it brown (takes between 30 seconds and 1 minute).
2. Add shrimp to pan, tossing to coat with the oil. Add the feta, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes, until the shrimp are just opaque. The feta should be melted and the sauce should start to thicken.
4. Add the basil, stir, taste and add more salt if needed, and remove from heat. Serve with lemon slices.