Expensive as they are, shrimp are by far the most popular seafood. Considering the cost, it is surprising how little Americans know about how to get the best quality and cook them easily at home.

Shrimp come to market in a multitude of ways and in scads of species. The distinctively banded tiger shrimp look the most striking and cost the least, which is probably why they are the top seller. They are also the most bland, I find. Given a choice, I prefer white shrimp.

Over 90 percent of the shrimp available, and virtually all shrimp in supermarkets, have been both farmed and frozen, no matter what you are told or how they are sold.

Whether wild or farmed, shrimp comes with or without the shell, frozen in blocks, or unfrozen and sold by the pound. Your best choice is block-frozen, in the shell. All raw shrimp should feel firm and smell briny. Avoid any that feel mushy or have black spots.

Cost increases noticeably with size. I find that 31 to 40 large shrimp (the number per pound) are the best value in terms of edible meat and cost. One caveat: Some shrimp are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, a chemical that helps them stay plump by retaining water. They look like a good choice, but shrink substantially in cooking. If you can, buying untreated shrimp in a smaller size is actually preferable.

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Shrimp generally taste best cooked in the shell and are easier to peel. I often halve shrimp lengthwise, as in this salad, to stretch the cost and make portions look bigger.

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Spinach and Shrimp Salad with Citrus Dressing

Makes 4 servings.

  • 12 oz. large shrimp
  • 8 cups baby spinach leaves (or flat-leaf), rinsed and dried
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 4 very thin slices red onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place shrimp in a large saucepan filled with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When shrimp have turned pink and curled, drain and peel them. Remove their veins, using your fingers and a small paring knife. Halve each shrimp lengthwise and set aside.
  2. Arrange a quarter of the spinach in a bed on each of 4 dinner plates. (If using flat-leaf spinach, first tear it into bite-size pieces.) Place 4 orange slices on each bed of spinach. Cut pepper halves into strips. Cut strips into thirds. Arrange one-fourth on top of orange slices. Arrange one-fourth of the shrimp over the peppers. Separate onions into rings and arrange over shrimp.
  3. For the dressing, whisk orange and lime juices in a small bowl with turmeric and oregano. Whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon 2 tablespoons dressing over each salad. Sprinkle oregano on top and serve. (Salad can be assembled and dressing made up to 4 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Dress and garnish just before serving.)

Nutritional Info Per Serving:
189 calories,
4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
19 g. carbohydrate,
21 g. protein,
5 g. dietary fiber,
176 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 3 Low-Fat Meat, 4 Vegetable