This is one of the dishes I have come to rely on when I don’t feel like cooking – it’s as close as I come to waving a magic wand at dinnertime. There’s hardly anything to do to get it to the table, and it takes less than half an hour, start to finish. And yet this dish – inspired by the tastes of Spanish tapas, garlicky, heady with the scent of smoked paprika and warmed with a touch of cayenne pepper – is bursting with flavor, aroma, color and nutrition.
The way the garlic is cooked is central to the dish’s flavor. First, it’s thinly sliced and gently sizzled in olive oil until golden. Then, it’s scooped out of the oil, which is now infused with garlic flavor, and set aside to be stirred back in later. In goes in curly kale and cooked until just wilted before the shrimp and seasonings join the hardy greens.
At this point, the garlic, which crisps a bit as it cools, returns to the skillet, lending another layer of texture and toasty flavor. Smothered in smoky, brick-colored spice, glistening with olive oil and wafting with garlic, the healthful lean protein and green leafy vegetable are transformed into an alluring meal – one accomplished so easily that it feels like a small miracle.
Keeping with the tapas theme, I like to serve it alongside pan con tomate as well as a glass of albariño to complete the meal.
Shrimp With Kale, Garlic and Smoked Paprika¼ cup olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 cups packed coarsely chopped curly kale leaves (from about ½ bunch)
1¼ pounds large tail-on shrimp (about 30 per pound), peeled, deveined, rinsed and patted dry
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon table or fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
In a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, combine the oil and garlic and heat just until the oil begins to sizzle (see note below). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is just golden, about 5 minutes. Watch closely that the garlic does not burn. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a small dish, leaving the oil in the skillet.
Increase the heat to medium-high, add the kale and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp, paprika, salt and cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turns pink and is just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, return the garlic to the skillet and stir to combine. Taste, and season with additional salt and/or cayenne, if desired. Divide among plates and serve right away.
Note: If you don’t have a large nonstick skillet, a regular skillet will work, as well, but you might need to add a splash of water while wilting down the kale if the pan seems dry. Storage notes: Leftover shrimp and kale can be refrigerated in an airtight container for as long as three days.
Yield: 4 servings
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