Beat winter’s chill with spicy shrimp tacos

The bleaker the weather, the brighter the food, I say. It’s the new year, and January can be a cold, wet and dark second act following the holiday festivities. A perfect antidote is to create light and vibrant food to ward off the seasonal blues and balance out any celebratory excesses.

These Baja-inspired tacos piled with blackened shrimp channel the South, the border and beyond. They are vibrant and wholesome, not bogged down by any heavy sauces, cheeses or meat. A citrusy salsa and fresh avocado are light and healthy accompaniments, refreshing in their simplicity. The tacos are easy to prepare, requiring just a fair amount of chopping, which is a simple activity that distracts from any inclement weather outside. And, perhaps best of all, they are fun to eat, inviting interaction and hands-on noshing.

The blackened spice blend is meant to have heat, but feel free to adjust the cayenne to your taste. In fact, make a double batch to keep on hand to season fish and chicken for later meals. Store any remaining spice blend in a jar in your pantry.

Lynda Balslev is a Marin resident, cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer.

RECIPE

Blackened Shrimp Tacos

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

24 large (18-20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact (optional)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large ripe but firm avocado, halved, sliced crosswise

Flour or corn tortillas, warmed

Cilantro leaves for garnish

Lime wedges

Crema:

2/3 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sriracha, or to taste

Pinch of kosher salt

Salsa:

1 cup grape tomatoes, chopped

1 cup defrosted frozen yellow corn

1 small poblano pepper, seeded, finely diced

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Spices:

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

Whisk the crema ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready.

In a separate bowl, combine the salsa ingredients. Taste for seasoning.

Combine the spices in a small bowl. Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl. Add the spices and stir to thoroughly coat the shrimp.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Carefully arrange the shrimp in one layer in the pan without overcrowding (in batches if necessary). Cook until charred and cooked through the center, about 4 minutes, turning once.

To serve, arrange a few slices of avocado on a warmed tortilla. Spoon some of the salsa over, then top with shrimp. Drizzle with some of the crema. Garnish with cilantro and serve with the lime wedges for squeezing.

 

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