Megan Murphy: Souped-up shrimp dish perfect for summer days

Staff - commercialappeal.com - 06/21/2011
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Here's a perfect warm-weather dish that is a cross between a zesty shrimp cocktail and a souped-up gazpacho.

You can eat it as a light main dish or serve it as an appetizer. Either way, it's tasty, refreshing and healthy.

Consider buying already cooked shrimp, either fresh or frozen. You can thaw frozen shrimp overnight in the refrigerator or place them, still frozen, in a colander in the sink and run cold water over them for 5 minutes or until thawed. This takes the cooking step out of the preparation process.

The vegetable chopping isn't excessive, so the whole dish goes together very quickly. You can serve it and eat it right away, or refrigerate it for a few hours or even a day and eat it when it is cold, making it even more refreshing.

Although shrimp is available year round, I seem to equate shrimp meals with summer. Maybe it's because while shrimp is very high in protein like other meats and fish, it seems to sit lighter in my stomach, which is more comfortable on hot, sticky summer days.

Years ago, many people avoided shrimp because its high cholesterol content was thought to increase blood cholesterol in humans, increasing risk for heart disease. Further research showed eating foods with a lot of cholesterol didn't always equate to having high blood cholesterol levels.

While shrimp is high in cholesterol, its total fat and saturated fat content is low. Natural food sources that are low in fat and saturated fat generally do not raise heart disease risk.

Of course, it's another story if you are eating battered and fried shrimp. That type of preparation adds significantly more fat and possibly trans fatty acids to the shrimp, thereby raising heart disease risk.

Boiling or steaming shrimp, though, adds no additional fat, therefore no increased risk.

The tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and V8 juice ensure that you get a good dose of vegetables with every serving. Packed with vitamins C and A, the tomatoes and V8 juice lead the nutrition value. V8 juice is high in sodium. To lower the sodium per serving by about 100 milligrams, use low-sodium V8 juice. You can also experiment with leaving out the added salt, and add more onions, cilantro and lime juice, none of which have significant amounts of sodium.

I didn't use the spicy V8 but did add a couple of dashes of Louisiana hot sauce to my bowl. And since I love cilantro, I garnished my serving with an additional small handful of it.

We ate it just prepared the first night, and cold from the refrigerator the second night and it was good both ways, though I think the colder version was a little better. It's also good garnished with a few crushed, baked tortilla chips.

Megan Murphy is a Tennessee-licensed registered dietitian and associate professor of nutrition at Southwest Tennessee Community College. Call 277-3062, fax 529-2787, e-mail Meganmyrd at aol.com

Coctel de Camarones

1 lb. cooked small shrimp (70-90 per lb.), boiled or steamed

1½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1½ cups diced cucumber

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1 ripe avocado, diced

1½ cups spicy or regular V8 juice

2 tbsp. lime juice

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

¼ tsp. salt

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Lime wedges for serving

Combine everything in a large bowl except the lime wedges. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with the lime wedges alongside.

Makes about 4 servings, 1½ cups each.

Per serving: 260 calories, 10 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 230 mg cholesterol, 14 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fiber, 31 gm protein, 658 mg sodium.

Source: Eating Well magazine, May/June 2011

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