Ahhh, these long summer days call for celebration!
I’m a mover, and I feel inspired at this time of year, when the sun is shining and the light stays around until well after the kiddo is down for the night, to see just how much I can fit into a day. Responsibilities on the back burner finally materialize to completion, and tasks on the never-ending to do list are steadily checked off.
I take deep satisfaction in productivity, and surprisingly to some, I have more energy when I keep myself busy than when I take a day of rest. Living at this level of activity is not for everyone, but it is how I feel most at home.
Still, like many families out there, I find all the busy-ness can interfere with a healthy eating plan. Figuring out how to squeeze in a quick, mindful dinner on these days often has me perplexed. And I’m a chef! It’s no wonder that so many folks, with less familiarity and comfort in the kitchen than myself, wind up resorting to the empty calories of fast food and cheap frozen meals when times get hectic.
So how do I manage to eat well during this busy time of year? Well, my biggest problem is ensuring I get enough protein to support my active lifestyle. At the end of a crazy day, if I haven’t planned ahead and made sure I have something defrosted or ready to go, it often means scrambled eggs on my plate. Now don’t get me wrong. I love eggs. They’re one of my all-time favorite foods, but, like anything, they get old. Also, I believe diversity maximizes nutrition.
One of my go-to sources for quick protein is shrimp. It whips up in a jiff. Even starting from frozen, it can be on my plate in under thirty minutes. (A handful of shrimp defrosts in five minutes under cold, running water and cooks in less time than that.) Shrimp also absorbs flavors quickly, needing only a brief marinade or light dusting of your favorite seasoning to be taste bud ready.
Speaking of favorite seasonings for shrimp, I love the curry spice blend in this recipe. It’s easy to prepare, requiring just a handful of ingredients that are likely already in your pantry, and it’s economical. (Like all homemade spice blends, it costs probably about one-quarter of a premade spice mix from the store). It works wonders on chicken too and is just great to have around for quick, flavorful dinners. Here the kick it gives the shrimp pairs beautifully with the slightly sweet peanut sauce, everything highlighted by a crisp, scrumptious jicama salad.
Jicama is one of those oddball produce items that tends to be ignored by most people, probably because they don’t know what on Earth to do with it. It doesn’t help that it’s weird looking, ugly even, like a potato mated with a turnip. Yet beneath its drab, papery skin lies a delicious flesh with a slightly sweet, starchy flavor—somewhere between an apple and a raw potato—and a texture like an incredibly crunchy Asian pear. This flavor-texture combination is truly unlike that of any other vegetable, and it’s something I absolutely love.
Most folks think of jicama as being a strictly Latin American food, often dusted with chili powder and lime for a snack. Lesser known is the root’s role in Asian cuisines. Spaniards brought jicama from Mexico first to the Philippines, and from there it spread to China and other parts of southeast Asia. Just as jicama couples superbly with Mexican flavors, it goes equally well with the fresh, bold ingredients of Thai cuisine (many, such as lime, chiles, and cilantro, being the same as those of Mexican cooking).
This meal is a harmonious fusion of heat, sweet, salty, and tart. It is filling yet refreshing—perfect for a warm summer day. And, of course, it comes with the added bonus of getting to the table in a flash. Serve it hot or cold as an appetizer or first course, or add additional shrimp and larger portions for a more substantial lunch or dinner. Use any leftover curry rub on meats, seafood, or vegetable dishes. Use leftover peanut sauce as a salad dressing or dip for veggies.
Spicy Grilled Curried Shrimp with Thai Jicama Salad and Peanut Sauce
Serves 2–3 as a main course or 4–6 as a small plate
Prep time: 20–30 minutes
Cook time: 10–15 minutes
Special equipment: bamboo or metal skewers
For the curry rub:
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
For the peanut sauce:
½ cup creamy, unsweetened peanut butter
2 tablespoons tamari
1 clove garlic, minced
¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Juice of 1 large lime
1–2 teaspoons sriracha (or similar hot chili sauce), or to taste
5 drops liquid stevia or 1 pinch powdered stevia, or coconut sugar, honey, or dark molasses to taste
¼–½ cup water
For the jicama salad:
1 softball-sized jicama root, peeled and thinly sliced into large, bite-sized pieces
One half English cucumber, thinly sliced
4–6 radishes, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
Coconut sugar or stevia, to taste
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
For the shrimp:
12–18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1½ tablespoons curry rub (see recipe above)
Lime wedges (optional)
- Prepare curry rub: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare peanut sauce: Put all ingredients in a small pot, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes. (Start with ¼ cup water at first; if sauce gets too thick while simmering, add additional water to desired consistency.) Taste and adjust seasonings (lime, tamari, sweetener, hot sauce) to your taste. Serve warm or chilled.
- Prepare jicama salad: Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and let marinate for at least 10 minutes for best results.
- Prepare shrimp: Preheat the grill to high. Toss shrimp with a tablespoon or two of the oil and then season liberally with curry rub. (Save any remaining rub in a sealed jar for future use.) Thread shrimp onto skewers; grill until firm and opaque, about 2 minutes per side.
- To serve: Divide salad among serving plates. Top with grilled shrimp skewers. Drizzle with peanut sauce. Serve with a wedge of lime, if desired.
Image from Briana Goodall.