Tomatoes with bacon, tomatoes with cream, tomatoes on toast or in salads supreme! At the height of our tomato harvest, with colored peppers blending in the mix, each evening’s supper features tomatoes. When “shrimp” was whispered in my ear one night, I set about answering the request the next day. Sweet gulf shrimp with tomatoes and coconut milk makes magic flavor found in tropical cuisines from Brazil to India. The stew may be sparked with spices or kept simple without. Either way it’s a food pairing not to be missed.
The rich creaminess of coconut milk tempers any tartness in the tomatoes, enriches the juice and bathes the shrimp in a sumptuous sauce. Fresh tomatoes melt into the stew in a way that canned tomatoes treated with citric acid can’t approach. Adding ginger, chili, and turmeric gives the dish an East Indian flair. Leaving those ingredients out gives a comfort level even a two-year-old will enjoy.
These days it’s important to check the source of your shrimp. I highly recommend American gulf shrimp if they are available. We’ve all been reminded of the often unsanitary conditions of Thai shrimp farms. For the sweetest, tenderest morsels, know the origin of your shrimp, and buy shell on shrimp. To ease your dinner preparation, simmer the sauce base ahead or even the day before. For a quick meal, steam some rice, blanch a green vegetable, simmer the shrimp in the sauce, and toss a salad.
Shrimp with Coconut Milk and Tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive, canola, or coconut oil
12 oz. onion (one large) peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium sweet red pepper seeded and diced
3-4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ – 1 green or red chili finely chopped*
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 cups peeled, seeded, chopped fresh tomatoes**
1 cup canned coconut milk (unsweetened, not lite)
juice 1 lime
1-2 handfuls fresh mint or cilantro, chopped
salt, pepper, cayenne
1 lb. medium Gulf shrimp, preferably in the shell
*Use fresh chili at your own comfort level. I always taste-test my chili first since it will vary in its heat. Use the seeds for more chili kick, or remove the seeds for a milder flavor.
**Save seedy bit from tomato interior. Strain out seeds and use juice as needed.
In a heavy saucepan warm the oil and sweat the sliced onion, covered with butter wrappers, until wilted and translucent. Add sweet red pepper and continue to sauté until the onion just tinges with gold. Stir in the ginger, garlic and chili, cooking until the spices are fragrant. Stir in turmeric, tomatoes, and cover. Reduce heat and simmer until tomatoes are completely tender and broken apart. If needed add a little water or the strained tomato juice. Add coconut milk, season generously with salt and simmer to combine flavors.
While the sauce is cooking, peel the shrimp, season lightly with salt, and refrigerate until needed. Shortly before serving, add shrimp to the simmering sauce and cook only 3-5 minutes or just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Add fresh cilantro or mint plus lime juice to taste, and serve with white rice or a simple pilaf. Enough for 4-5.