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Something Different
Week of: May 16, 2011
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

Shrimp Fajitas for Memorial Day

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

"Toss another shrimp on the barbie." By now, even Yanks know this welcome cry means dinner is on the grill, so come join the party.

Grilling shrimp is a great idea. Because seafood does not have the external fat found on meats, it does not cause flare-ups that cause charring as well as smoke that deposits carcinogens formed when the fat from meats drips onto the hot coals. Shrimp cook quickly, which also reduces the amount of time they are exposed to the smoke and charring that, in animal protein, adds unhealthy substances.

Before tossing any food on the grill, or into a grill pan, which also works nicely for making these fajitas, marinate it for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Marinating helps prevent foods from drying out and adds flavor. But the most important reason to always marinate first is that this liquid bath helps reduce the formation of those carcinogens.

For fajitas, lime juice, garlic, oil and a shot of hot pepper flakes are the perfect marinade. Divide it between two plastic bags, put shrimp in one, a heap of colorful peppers and red onion in the other, and let them sit.

I cook the shrimp on skewers, even when using a grill pan. This makes turning them often easy, which helps avoid drying out as well as reducing charring.

To add whole grain to this all-in-one meal, wrap stone-ground yellow corn tortillas in foil and start them warming off to one side of the grill before the shrimp go on. Set out bowls of fresh salsa and cilantro sprigs and when the shrimp come off the grill, folks have everything they need to dig in.

Shrimp Fajitas

Shrimp Fajitas

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 lb. extra-large (26-30 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 large Cubanelle or frying pepper
  • 1 medium red or yellow bell pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup cilantro sprigs, loosely packed
  • 8 whole-grain yellow corn tortillas
  • Salsa, optional
  • 8-inch bamboo or metal skewers

In resealable 1-gallon plastic bag, combine 1/4 cup of lime juice with garlic, pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3-4 grinds pepper. Add shrimp, seal bag, and massage to coat with marinade. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, seed frying and bell pepper, and cut them vertically into thin strips. Cut onion crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Place vegetables in another plastic bag. Add remaining lime juice and oil, plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Seal bag and massage to coat vegetables. Seal tortillas in foil, making two packages.

Heat charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. Brush grill rack with oil. Or heat grill pan over high heat until a drop of water flicked into it dances.

Drain and pat dry vegetables, discarding marinade. Arrange them on grill at right angles to bars or pan ridges. When vegetables are well marked, about 2 minutes, remove onions to platter and turn peppers. When peppers are crisp-tender, 1 minute, add to onions. If necessary, clean grill, using wire brush.

Set wrapped tortillas on one side of grill to warm over indirect heat.

Pat marinated shrimp dry with paper towels. Discard marinade. String shrimp evenly on skewers, alternating curve to opposite sides. Grill shrimp until almost opaque in center, about 2 minutes. Turn skewers and grill until shrimp are opaque in center but still moist, about 1 minute. Remove skewers, and add shrimp to platter of vegetables.

Open packets of warm tortillas and place cilantro sprigs on plate. Let people assemble their own. Serve with salsa.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 266 calories, 7 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 28 g carbohydrate,
21 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 287 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at www.aicr.org.

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