As Usual: Less is More

You know what’s so funny? Sometimes I can spend an entire day thinking about or preparing or shopping for dinner (especially if we are having a bunch of people over) and not be nearly as happy with what ends up on the table as I am when the kitchen is all tumbleweeds, and I spend about thirty seconds scrambling for a plan.

We have been on the move this summer — traveling to Alaska, as you know, Seattle, Chicago, Virginia, and Quogue. And it’s been awesome. The girls have sailed on wooden boats in Seattle lakes, and cheered on the Cubs at Wrigley. (I’m extremely lucky to have college roommates who chose really cool places to live.) They have eaten halibut, salmon, oysters, fried chicken, coconut cream pie, triple berry cobblers, and have done a summer’s worth of s’moring already. There has been a week or two of camp squeezed in, too, but for the most part, we haven’t bothered to put the luggage away — last weekend, actually, we didn’t even bother to unpack. Other than the fact that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to work (hence the gaps in posting, forgive me!) it’s been nice to have so little structure, to wake up in a new place and not have to be dressed and out the door by 8:00, shoes on, lunches packed!

The thing about this no structure month, though? Generally, I find myself returning home to a fridge that resembles a bachelor’s. (I know, cry me a river.) Last week, we walked in the door from Chicago close to dinnertime and found the wilting remains of a Savoy cabbage from the week-old CSA bag, two shriveled avocados in the fruit bowl — one barely usable — and my sourdough starter that some of you more careful readers might remember I made in a fit of DIY Excitement two weeks ago upon my return from Alaska. I wasn’t about to (finally) make those (long-promised) sourdough pancakes (soon!), but the sight of the starter reminded me of our Alaskan Seafood Stash in the freezer. Before we left Homer, we had all the halibut Phoebe caught vacuum-packed, frozen, and shipped to us — along with some salmon and something called Alaskan Sweet Shrimp that we couldn’t resist. And there it all was, in our freezer begging to be put to use.

I went with the shrimp (easiest to thaw), a simple avocado “butter” (smashed avocado with salt, cilantro, and a little lime), and the shredded cabbage, that had been tossed with some red-wine macerated shallots, and really really good olive oil. It was all I had.

But what I had was all I needed. If there had been sour cream or salsa or cheddar in the fridge, I would’ve probably ended up using it all — which would’ve been a shame, because the shrimp was spicy and the cabbage was sweet, and I plan to make the meal again exactly as is.

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Tacos
Makes two tacos per diner; I don’t know why this recipe looks so long. I promise you, it’s a piece of cake. The epiphany for me here was spreading avocado on the tortilla before the shrimp, instead of dolloping it all on at the end. That way, you get some in every bite.

2 pounds-ish shrimp (small, sweet preferred), shelled
generous drizzle olive oil
1 teaspoon-ish Sriracha
salt & pepper
juice from 1/2 small lemon or lime
8 tortillas

1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
olive oil
1 shallot, soaked in 1/4 cup red wine vinegar for 15 minutes (don’t discard vinegar)
handful cilantro

Avocado Butter
1-2 really ripe avocados
juice from 1/2 lime

Prepare your grill. Add shrimp to a baking or pie dish and toss with a olive oil, salt, pepper, and Sriracha. About three minutes before you grill, toss in lemon or lime juice. If you are using large shrimp, thread them on to skewers; if you are using small shrimp, add to a grilling basket (like this one). Cook for 1-2 minutes a side, tossing as you go if they are in a grill basket. Remove from grill and heat tortillas, about 30 seconds a side, watch so they don’t burn. Remove and cover with foil so they stay warm.

Meanwhile, as grill heats, prepare toppings. Toss together cabbage with olive oil, shallot, red wine vinegar, and cilantro. Mash avocado with salt and lime.

“Butter” each tortilla with avocado spread. Top with shrimp and cabbage and serve (with extra lime wedges and hot sauce if desired).

Photo from last week’s Instagram feed. Follow me there @dinneralovestory.

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Filed under: Grilling, Seafood

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Can you recommend a substitute for those of us who can’t use siracha? It’s showing up in many of your recipes, but my daughter is allergic to peanuts and we’ve not found a peanut safe brand.
I think we’d really like these tacos, but Siracha seems a key ingredient. Thank you!


I bought one of those vegetable baskets a while ago and it has opened up a whole new world to me with vegetables. I had never thought to use it for shrimp which is SO much easier than using skewers. Thanks for the tip. I will be making these ASAP!

Ellie H

To Tina – In this recipe, if it were me making the substitution for Sriracha, I would just add some hot pepper (possibly some garlic or garlic powder if I were marinating the shrimp for a long time instead of just tossing briefly).


Gabrielle, thank you, we’ll look for that brand. We often have different brands available in Canada, and I can no longer use asian brands found in Chinatown, because I can’t read their labels and labelling laws are different in other countries. So this, in particular, has been a challenge. Thanks!


Jenny, good call on spreading the guacamole on the tortillas first! I will do this now every time I build fajitas and soft tacos. I am always sad if I get a bite without guac! Thanks!


This was dinner last night and will be dinner again tonight (yay for leftovers!). I hesitate to bring up the d-word (diet), but this dish is great for watching portions and counting fat, carbs, etc. It worked perfectly for me as many of your recipes do. Sometimes it’s all about the desconstructing.

Becs @ Lay the table

I couldn’t agree with your more – a hurriedly prepared meal is usually a better one! I guess we can too easily over fuss when plan, there is too much time, whereas we have to go with our instincts when we’re on the clock! Sounds like you are having a fabulous time.


Tina, we’re in Canada and my husband has an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts. We use Huy Fong brand as well- I get it at Loblaws.