Shrimp with Feta and Tomatoes (Garides Saganaki)
This dish is robust and full of flavor – the sweet tomato sauce contrasting nicely with the salty cheese and the bitey shrimp. It’s also very easy to make and festive enough for a dinner party entree. Garides is the Greek word for shrimp and saganaki is the pan in which it is baked. But I simply make the dish in a skillet on top of the stove.
To tell the truth, when I lived on a Greek island for six months in the 60’s, I never once ran into this dish. Greece, like most of Europe, was quite poor at the time and fish were sparse in the Mediterranean – it had been “fished out” people said. Octopus was plentiful, but the arrival of a couple of barbounia (red mullet) in the market was cause for celebration and quick acquisition.
How things have changed. With the farming of fish worldwide, shrimp is readily available in a mutitude of shapes and sizes. I know that fish farming is detrimental to the environment, but I can’t help being glad that at least shrimp and prawns are not priced beyond reach — or that they’re not nearing extinction.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup white wine (or 1 tablespoon ouzo if you have it)
1 14-oz. can chopped tomatoes (or use fresh if they’re in season)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and a pinch cayenne pepper
1-1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (the larger the better)
4 oz. good feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped (or dill or parsley)
Saute the onion in the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet until soft. Add the garlic and white wine or ouzo.
Ouzo gives a slightly different, licorishy flavor but is more authentically Greek. Let it bubble and reduce, then add the chopped tomatoes, drained of most of their juice, a little salt (the feta is salty), the cayenne and dried oregano and cook over low heat until the sauce is slightly thickened and almost dry. Add the shrimp and cook briefly (3-5 minutes, depending on size). Do not overcook. Add the feta and give it a minute to melt slightly, then add the chopped mint, or dill if you prefer. I like to serve this dish with simple boiled white rice and buttered spinach, but even on its own it will be sure to satisfy.