Especially this time of year, there is nothing better than a spicy, tomato-based seafood dish with some veggies for a light dinner. This sauce is great and can be used with whatever veggies you have on hand, so make this tonight!
Spicy Cajun Shrimp with Veggies
On the night we made this, I served this tomato-based stew with rice, but you could certainly serve this alone in bowls with bread for dipping, or over some pasta or mashed potatoes. That’s your call!
I started the rice first. I find that cooking rice in 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken stock (or a bouillon cube) and adding some scallions right at the end makes great special rice that is a little bit different without overpowering the flavors of the dish.
Slice up two or three scallions for 4 portions of rice...
And fluff them gently into cooked rice right before serving!
For the sauce, you’ll need to gather some ingredients:
- 1/2 bulb fennel
- 1 zucchini
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- canned tomatoes (1/2 to 1 cup your choice whole, crushed, or diced)
- hot sauce
- tomato paste
- Creole seasoning
- Raw, peeled, deveined shrimp (5-8 per person, depending on how large they are)
Vegetarian Note: you could eliminate the shrimp and make this as a veggie-only dish, or add in some tofu, and it would be delicious!
Side Note: I don’t know the difference between Cajun and Creole, but I think they’re pretty much the same. Creole seasoning is used in this recipe because I had it on hand, and the interwebs informs me that the two words are nearly interchangeable except for some historical facts that I’m too lazy to read about at this present moment. Bear with me.
Start by slicing the fennel. Fennel is a root vegetable that can take the place of onion and becomes sugary sweet when cooked but tastes licoricy when raw. It’s great and if you’ve never used it you should try it! Other veggie options for this would be onion, green pepper, or celery. Use what you’ve got!
For the fennel, cut off the tops first, then cut the whole thing in half and put away the half you aren’t going to use.
See the core? We don’t really want to eat that, it’s kind of tough. Cut the half you are going to cook in half again, and then cut the core out at an angle. Then slice up the fennel! It doesn’t have to look perfect – just be thin enough to cook quickly, 1/4 inch or smaller slices.
Now cut up the zucchini. Cut it in half, then cut each half in half lengthwise like at the top of this picture. Then cut each of the quarters lengthwise in planks, then cut the planks in half. Or, cut the zucchini however you’d like to, it makes no difference to me whatsoever.
Now that you’ve got your veggies ready to go, heat up some oil in the bottom of a large frying pan (turn the stove to between medium and medium-high) and add the veggies to the hot oil.
While the veggies are sauteeing, use this time to mince your garlic. I peel garlic by mashing it under my knife with my super macho fist. Then I run my knife over and over the crushed cloves until it’s the consistency I want it.
As you can see, I’m super picky about my hot sauce….it’s an off brand that likely came from the dollar store 36 years ago. How much you use depends on how spicy you like things – I’d start with a few dashes for tang at first, then once the sauce is done taste it and add more hot sauce and Creole seasoning based on your tolerance for heat.
Oh, and have you used this tomato paste in a tube? It’s great, and stays in the fridge forever – way more handy than the little cans, though I often buy whichever is cheapest. They taste the same, for heaven’s sake.
Stir in the seasonings for one to two minutes, until the tomato paste is coating everything and you can smell the garlic. At this point, the veggies should be about half cooked – we aren’t done yet!
Once the garlic is fragrant, stir in a beer, and find someone that looks like a child molester to drink the rest.
Child molester? Axe Murderer? I can never tell.
Stir the beer around for about 2 minutes until 1/3 to 1/2 of it is cooked out. Then dump in your shrimp, and grab your tomatoes. I had some leftover, so for this dish that served 4 I used 2 whole tomatoes and juices from 1/3 of a large can.
Now, just like we did when we made Spicy Leek Tomato Sauce, use your fingers to crush the tomatoes into small pieces right on top of the shrimp and add the juices, then stir everything together.
Keep the heat on medium – the sauce should be simmering but not boiling. Adjust stove temperature as needed to achieve this.
Now, because we’ve made something really healthy, we should probably add some calories to this – let’s be real.
Stir in two pats of butter to thicken the sauce just slightly, taste, and add more Crejun(now I’m just being dumb) seasoning, hot sauce, or salt as needed.
The shrimp should be fully cooked in 3-5 minutes – you’ll know it’s done when it turns from gray to pink. Don’t overcook the shrimp!
I would also suggest that this is a great time to take a stupid picture of you and your significant other and post it on the internet because you think he’s really cute.
Serve the shrimp and veggies with your scallion rice and drink 4-8 glasses of boxed wine – you’ve earned it for making such a healthy, tasty meal.