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.
Blackened Shrimp Tacos
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
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
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
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
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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