For the Sit-in-the-Kitchen Dinner with my friend Maria, I knew I would assemble an Antipasto Platter, but I wanted to make it extra special.
I am fortunate to be able to buy gorgeous raw colossal wild shrimp at my neighborhood market. These shrimp are delicate with a slight sweetness. I could have just broiled them with garlic and butter or olive oil, but I wanted something different.
Inspiration happened and I was reminded of a birthday celebration at a Middle Eastern restaurant. At that meal, as we sat down, a platter appeared with a vivid red-orange dip surrounded by piles of freshly baked warm pita bread. I didn’t know what it was but I picked up a warm piece of bread and scooped up a mound of savory goodness. My Middle Eastern friend smiled and waited patiently for the hunks of fresh feta cheese and raw vegetables to accompany scrumptious puree.
I followed his lead and added a bit of feta cheese to the pita bread before scooping up the puree. Even better!
I found out later that this spread was called “Ajvar”. It is a vegetable spread made from red bell peppers, eggplant, oil, salt, pepper and hot red peppers. You can find it readymade at ethnic markets, sometimes at World Market or at my Amazon Affiliate Store.
I always keep a jar in my pantry. I thought the delicate shrimp would be great smeared with the mild Ajvar and topped with feta cheese.
The shrimp I buy are labeled colossal and there are approximately 10 shrimp in one pound. This gives you an idea of the size. You can use smaller shrimp but they must be raw, in the shell and preferably wild. I sometimes find them at Costco.
With each bite, you got the tender sweetness of the wild shrimp, the piquant flavors of the spread and the creamy saltiness of the feta. I made them as part of the Antipasto Platter but you could make them as a main course or a stand-alone appetizer.
Maria tasted one, said “This is incredible!”; and then because she is a polite and considerate guest, sweetly asked, “So, two for each of us…?”
Try them and let me know what your guests have to say, or do a test run and make it for yourself.
The recipe describes the quantity needed for each shrimp. It can easily be scaled up or down.
BAKED WILD SHRIMP WITH AJVAR AND FETA
EVENT: Weeknight Sit-in-the-Kitchen Dinner
SERVES: 4 People (e.g. 8 Shrimp) as Appetizer, 2 Shrimp per Person
Wild colossal shrimp in shell
Ajvar (available at my Amazon Affiliate Store): ½ tablespoon per shrimp
Greek feta cheese: 1 teaspoon, crumbled, per shrimp
Rimmed baking pans
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Using a sharp paring knife, insert blade about ¾ of the way into shrimp near the head and cut all the way down, just to tail. Shrimp should lay flat.
3. Using the tip of the knife, remove the vein.
4. Rinse shrimp under cold water.
5. Pat dry and lay shell down on a large rimmed baking pan.
6. Smear Ajvar spread over each shrimp.
7. Crumble feta on top of each shrimp.
8. Bake 10-15 minutes. Watch them carefully. The shells will turn pink and the tails will stand up when they are done. Baking time can be less if you use smaller shrimp.
* A NOTE: I find Greek feta less salty than Bulgarian, but more tangy and sharper than French feta. It’s perfect for this dish. I buy it at Costco.