Published September 1, 2010.
This easy weeknight Greek dish defies the old saw that seafood and cheese don’t work together—if, that is, you get every element just right.
Some cooking rules are based on science, while others are matters of taste. One of these—don’t combine seafood and cheese—has always seemed about as ironclad as it gets.
When we heard about shrimp saganaki, a classic Greek dish that features the ocean essence of shrimp echoed by the brininess of feta, all in a sweet-tart tomato sauce, we set out to make a version we could add to our weeknight repertoire.
A few quick tests determined that jumbo or extra-large shrimp were best; they were appropriate for main-dish portions, and their large size meant that peeling and deveining was a relatively quick process. We gave them a jump-start on flavor by tossing them in a quick, simple marinade of garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, and ouzo, a lightly sweet, anise-based Greek liqueur.
It didn’t make sense to fire up the oven for what should be a quick and easy skillet dish, so we threw tradition overboard and went stovetop. We reasoned that simmering the shrimp and tomatoes together would allow for an exchange of flavors, so we added the raw marinated shrimp to the tomato sauce and briefly simmered them over medium-low heat until cooked through. The verdict? Tender and succulent shrimp, and a dish with full flavor.
We wanted a sauce with some sweetness to balance the feta’s sharpness, as well as some earthiness to complement the brininess of the cheese and shrimp. We settled on canned diced tomatoes, which were not only the most convenient, but also had more intense flavor than fresh supermarket tomatoes. Onion, garlic, and red and green bell pepper sautéed in olive oil were naturals for this Mediterranean sauce, while red pepper flakes contributed some enlivening heat. Dry white wine and a bit of ouzo rounded out the sauce.
As for the feta, our tasters preferred it sharp and pungent. We settled on a generous amount so that some would melt into the sauce as servings were spooned out and the rest would remain as a flavorful presence on top. As final touches, we drizzled extra-virgin olive oil for a rich fruitiness, then sprinkled a little dill over the top—its unique, grassy, tangy notes had the big benefit of tasting distinctly Greek.list of recipes