Now, here's a heads up for those of you who might want to taste-test different olives. I bought the jar of olives from Food Lion which contained an "assortment" of olives. Don't buy this. All the olives taste the same.
We used Kalamata olives in this dish because of their distinctive taste. Kalamata olives are from the valley of Messina on the western end of the Peloponnesean Peninsula of Greece, near the town of Kalamata. They are hand-picked to avoid bruising (They cannot be harvested while green.), then hand slit, and cured in a red wine vinegar brine which gives them their fruity, wine-like flavor. The Kalamata olive pairs wonderfully with the fennel.
Fennel, if you're not familiar with it, is a bulbous vegetable with the bulb, stalks, leaves, seeds, and even pollen edible. Its flavor is similar to anise, almost licorice-like. (I don't like licorice, but I like fennel.) You've probably already tasted it in Italian sausage.
with my homemade pasta.
Mr. Hawthorne's Mediterranean Shrimp
2-3 potatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-tracted
(I say de-tract instead of de-vein because that black line that goes down the length of the shrimp is the digestive, or intestinal, tract, not a vein.)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp lemon zest
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
2 TB fresh parsley
Heat oven to 450°.
Toss fennel and potatoes with about a tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, to coat. Spread in baking pan in a single layer and bake until tender, 25-30 minutes.
Toss shrimp with oregano, lemon zest, 1 TB olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Flip fennel and potatoes, browned side facing up, and place shrimp mixture over top. Crumble feta over top. Return to oven and bake until shrimp are just done, about 6 minutes.
Remove from oven when shrimp are done and sprinkle Kalamata olives and parsley over top. Drizzle with more olive oil if desired.
For the step by steps:
Toss sliced fennel and potatoes with olive oil, Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.
Place in single layer in baking pan.
Bake at 450° until tender - about 30 minutes - then flip over.
Add in shrimp. And yes, those are all cookbooks in the background, marked with dishes we want to try.
Our guest of honor, Maxine, patiently waits while Mr. Hawthornes sprinkles the feta over the dish. Those are her hands.
Back into oven to cook the shrimp.
Add the olives and parsley.
And another quick drizzle of olive oil and you're done.
Salty. Briny. Citrusy. Plus fresh flavors - green of parsley, herbal fennel.
All combine for an intensely satisfying flavor palette.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!