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Suss out sustainable shrimp, seafood

Oregon’s shrimp season is picking up speed. But until I can get to the coast for the freshest catch, I make do with other species available frozen at mainstream grocers.

Sussing out the best shrimp, however, can be a tricky business. Go to seafood watch.org, and find dozens of entries for shrimp that still put much of the onus on consumers to read packages’ fine print.

Some farmed shrimp are preferable, depending on the country of origin and aquaculture methods. Wild-caught shrimp can be highly sustainable, depending on fisheries management. Aligning common names for shrimp with actual species can further confuse the issue.

There’s no confusing Oregon’s pink shrimp, “Pandalus jordani”, when it’s freshly supplied at the state’s seafood markets. Certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2007, it was the world’s first shrimp fishery so designated, achieved in large part by changes in gear that reduces bycatch.

Also known as salad shrimp, these tiny shellfish are fully cooked by processors prior to retail purchase. That means they’re not as versatile in recipes as large shrimp that are sold raw.

For raw shrimp, I prefer the flavor and texture of specimens in the shell, although I have to spend about 10 minutes prepping them before dinner. But the shells, saved in the freezer, are a bonus ingredient in batches of homemade seafood stock.

I’ve purchased tasty, high-quality Mexican brown shrimp, which can be a “good alternative” to certified species, depending on the fishing method. It pays to do your homework, not only to ensure seafood for generations to come but the flavor of your dish.

With top-quality seafood, choose simple preparations such as this recipe courtesy of Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service

Pan-Seared Shrimp With Cumin, Parsley and Pistachios

1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 16 to 25)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Couple dashes of cayenne pepper, or more to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves and stems

Juice and zest 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; set aside for 15 to 30 minutes. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the sugar to bowl with shrimp and toss to coat.

Add shrimp to a cold 12-inch nonstick skillet in a single layer and cook over high heat until undersides of shrimp are spotty brown and edges are pink, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Use tongs to flip each shrimp, working speedily. Let sit until second side is opaque, for about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to plate.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet. Add spice mixture and cook over medium heat until fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Off heat, return shrimp and any accumulated juices to skillet. Add the cilantro, parsley and lemon juice and zest; toss to combine.

Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with the pistachios and serve with toothpicks (as an appetizer) or steamed rice (as an entree).

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

— Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “More Mediterranean: 225 New Plant-Forward Recipes” by America's Test Kitchen ($35).