Pick Pacific pink shrimp, skip peeling, deveining

This blog has been awash over the past week in seafood recipes. It’s not an uncommon topic, as I explained in my latest podcast. This South Coast native craves her seafood since moving two decades ago to this landlocked region, where fresh fill and shellfish can be hard to come by.

One of the most abundant — and almost as local as seafood gets — are Pacific pink shrimp, also known as “bay” or “salad” shrimp. The season kicked off this month and extends through October, making it one of the longest commercial fisheries on the West Coast. Certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2007, the fishery has averaged 30 million pounds annually for the past 30 years.

A large portion of the catch is individually quick-frozen (IQF) immediately upon processing. This is a superior way to preserve it for weeks to months. The shrimp also are canned.

But I prefer, of course, just-off-the-boat fresh shrimp, purchased from my favorite seafood market in Charleston, just a few blocks from the processing facility. From early summer through fall, I can’t pass through Charleston en route to the beach without stopping for a shrimp cocktail. Some coastal visitors want ice cream or saltwater taffy. Give me a Dairy Queen sundae-style cup of plump, juicy shrimp luxuriating in spicy cocktail sauce.

If I can squeeze in a stop just before heading back to the Rogue Valley, I bring home a pound or two of shrimp to top salads or toss into pasta. This spaghetti is very similar to versions I make before our garden tomatoes are ripe. Courtesy of Tribune News Service, it calls for larger shrimp that should be peeled and deveined. Among pink shrimp’s redeeming qualities, however, is skipping the peeling and deveining step, which just isn’t necessary with a crustacean this size.

If using pink shrimp here, I also would skip sauteeing them with the garlic and instead stir them into the sauced pasta before transferring to the baking dish. Because the shrimp already are cooked, shortening their time in the oven preserves their moisture.

Tribune News Service photo

Spaghetti With Shrimp, Feta and Tomatoes

In a pot of well-salted boiling water, cook 6 ounces spaghetti until al dente, for about 10 minutes; drain.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 3 peeled and minced garlic cloves; cook until golden, for about 1 minute. Add 3/4 pound peeled and deveined shrimp; cook until shrimp begin to turn pink, for about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 (14.5-ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes, drained; cook for 2 minutes. Toss with pasta.

Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole; sprinkle with 2 ounces crumbled feta. Bake at 400 F until sauce is bubbly and feta melts slightly, for about 10 minutes. Makes 2 servings.

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