Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
There comes a time every year, typically the end of February or early March, when I make an effort to will spring into existence. This year's turning point came this past Friday, as it began to snow in New York. The flurries officially lost their charm as a picturesque, welcome addition to the city's urban landscape. Each and every snowflake served as a reminder that Memorial Day was still 12 weeks away.
Grasping for the illusion of sunshine and crashing waves, I took to the kitchen. I wanted to put the months of bubbling stews and heavy cuts of meat firmly behind me and set my sights on the sea. I chose to make a light, Mediterranean-inspired meal of lemon garlic shrimp with a zippy tabbouleh-inspired salad.
Shrimp fit the bill for the coastal vibes and happens to be one of my favorite weeknight proteins. Either fresh or frozen, it cooks in minutes and adapts to a wide variety of dishes. It can stand up to a cream-based Italian pasta, fiery Thai spices or complex Indian curries. For my spring-inspired dish, I chose to dress the crustaceans in a spritz of lemon and some diced garlic to wake up my winter-weary palate.
I purchased fresh, cleaned and deveined shrimp and chose to keep their shells on as I sautéed them, which I would recommend, as long as you don't mind getting a little messy while removing them at the dinner table. Cooking with the shells imparts deeper flavors and protects the meat from becoming tough or rubbery. Just be sure to put out some extra napkins.
As an accompaniment, I took inspiration from the season's just-arriving fresh herbs, specifically, peppery, savory parsley. A more traditional version of tabbouleh features the herb prominently and in a higher proportion than any other ingredient. I chose to bulk up the grains—typically bulgur, but I substituted quinoa—and vegetables to make the dish more substantial.
To accompany the meal, I eased into my springtime wines with a white from the Côtes du Rhône. The predominantly Grenache Blanc blend sits at the richer, rounder edge of the spectrum and fit nicely as a transition from big winter reds. The buttery stone fruit flavors did not, however, do the dish any favors—the tabbouleh cried out for more acid.
A bright and juicy Grüner Veltliner came next. Flavors of green apple and spice played nicely with the vibrant, peppery salad and its minerally finish was a much better match than the creamy Côtes du Rhône. But I couldn't shake a bitter aftertaste that reared up sip after sip when tasted with the food.
My last choice embodied the goals I had set for the meal. Hailing from springy Galicia or "Green Spain," an Albariño from Rias Baixas offered zip and refreshing acidity that mellowed the conspicuous flavors of the red onion and garlic. The wine's coastal provenance brought out the shrimp's briny flavors and transported me far from chilly New York.
Pair with an Albariño such as Lagar de Fornelos Albariño Rias Baixas Pazo de Seoane 2013 (86 points, $12).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Approximate food costs: $12
1. Put quinoa and water or broth into a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid. Fluff with a fork.
2. Combine diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, parsley and quinoa in a large bowl. Dress with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Season shrimp with garlic, 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a medium frying pan over medium heat until shrimp are pink and opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, and squeeze remaining half lemon over top. Serve atop salad with toasted pita bread. Serves 3 to 4.