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Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

by Angela Roberts on August 2, 2009

Gamberetti all’ Olio e Limone or Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice is often found in restaurants along the Adriatic.

This is now a favorite and I’ve made the recipe twice already. In fact, so far I’ve made every Marcella Hazan dish twice since starting this cooking group. And, if you know me, I don’t cook things over again, so it’s a great complement to her and to good Italian cuisine.

Hot summer nights love food made in advance and served at room temperature. Poached shrimp sitting a lemony olive oil is just one of those dishes that can be your main course or a delightful appetizer, eaten with crusty bread, perhaps something green, perhaps just shrimp and bread.

Yesterday I talked about my grandmother’s uniquely fast cooking. But, she, nor would I, purchase pre-shelled or pre-cooked shrimp, or pre-chopped vegetables to buy convenience, because we will not sacrifice flavor for time. Although there is the poaching, shelling and deveining, the entire process takes 20 minutes of prep time. This can be a convenient dinner for two for under $20. Now, I must tell you the one thing my grandmother would be upset with me about looking at the photograph is that I have placed bread directly on the table without a plate. That was a big no no in our home, because she would say, “bread represents God’s body, and He needs a plate.” And heavens forbid should the bread accidentally be turned upside down. And, if there was bread left over, it had to go to the birds, because bread was never ever ever thrown into a trash can. (I know this is about shrimp, but cooking so much Italian food just takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, where lots of food was prepared by many various family cooks.)

This kind of thinking amuses me, as I think about what food represents to us, the beliefs and values surrounding it, how it shapes us. My mother to this day always puts individual bread plates on the table and always gets out her basket.

Tell me, do you have any stories like this, little eccentric beliefs or superstitions surrounding food that you grew up with?

The Process
Too often shrimp are served cold, but cold temperature can steal some of the flavor. I personally find that to be true for any food that mainly flavored from olive oil, which is not meant to be cold. If you make this in advance, of course, you must refrigerate, but bring it out at least 30 minutes before serving to bring it to room temperature. Since this is such a simple dish to prepare, I suggest making and serving within the hour.

My husband never sees just one thing on a dish. He looks at the whole composition and how it all blends together. He thought the combination of the shrimp, greens, and bread made sense together. In this case I cooked the tops of red beets (that are roasting for tomorrow) and drizzled olive oil and lemon, pairing perfectly with the shrimp and the bread. Who knew you could eat those tops? They are delicious.

Notes on buying shrimp: A word about buying shrimp: I cannot run to the shrimp boat to buy fresh shrimp, so my next best option is to go to my fish monger and ask for the frozen wild shrimp and opt out of the already defrosted shrimp sitting in the counter.

Marcella suggests small shrimp, or to cut your larger shrimp lengthwise in half. I did that in this photo below and it does improve the dish.

Red Beets Tops and Shrimp with Lemon in Olive Oil

Recipe for Shrimp (adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Black pepper, ground fresh

Instructions

  1. Boil 2 quarts of water with celery, carrot, salt and vinegar for about 10 minutes.
    Add shrimp in shell to boiling water. By the time the water boils again the shrimp will turn pink and be cooked. Shell and devein and if necessary, slice lengthwise.
    Pour on olive oil. Toss. Add lemon juice, fresh pepper.

Tops of Red Beets

  1. Cut tops off red beets. Wash thoroughly. Boil until tender about 8 minutes.
  2. Drizzle olive oil, lemon.
  3. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper

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