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Stir-Fried Shrimp, Sugar Snaps & Fennel

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Serves six.

Don't let the make-ahead fennel oil fool you -- this is a quick recipe that is perfect for a weeknight dinner; it just requires a little more forethought than some. Use a rasp-style grater (such as a Microplane) for the ginger and garlic if you have one. Because the garlic and ginger are grated so finely, they're added to the stir-fry later than usual, and cook them just long enough to get rid of the raw flavor.

For the fennel oil:
  • 2-1/2 Tbs. fennel seeds, finely ground
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the stir-fry:
  • 1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fennel (about 1/8 inch thick)
  • 2 lb. jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 1 tsp. grated garlic
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbs. very thinly sliced fresh mint
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges
At least a day ahead, make the oil:

Moisten the ground fennel with a few drops of water, just enough so that it adheres to itself slightly when squeezed. In a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, stir together the moistened ground fennel and olive oil. Seal and refrigerate overnight or up to a week. Before using, warm the oil to room temperature and strain through cheesecloth.

Make the stir-fry:

In a large sauté pan or stir-fry pan, heat 3 Tbs. of the fennel oil over medium-high heat (the oil is hot enough when you put a sugar snap in the pan and it starts to sizzle). Add the sugar snaps, season with some of the salt, and stir-fry until the peas have a bit of a golden color and are crunchy and blistery, about 2 minutes. (they'll be crisp-tender). Add the fennel, season with a bit more salt, and stir-fry until the fennel is al dente, about 60 seconds. Increase the heat to high, add the shrimp, toss well, and make a space in the center of the pan. Into this space, pour the remaining fennel oil and then add the garlic and ginger, stirring for about 15 seconds. Season with a bit more salt and continue to stir-fry until shrimp are no longer glossy and start to look pink and opaque. Taste and add more salt if you like, scatter the mint on top, and serve with the lime wedges on the side.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 210; Fat (g): fat g 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 2; Protein (g): protein g 21; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 7; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 9; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 610; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 180; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe is an elegant and lovely way to prepare shrimp. It's very clean in its preparation and deceptively simple for the flavors that are acheived. Don't skip out on the fennel-flavor infused olive oil; it makes the dish. I don't claim to have a better pallet than Gary Danko, but I did find the flavors were enhanced by adding a touch of champagne vinegar at the end. It was delicious. I could see this as a perfect appetizer to a dinner party, or a light dinner for a spring evening. Just note, if you use it as a light dinner, add more peas. Even with the addition, the recipe serves only 4 people.

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