Americans love tacos. And if it’s taco night, you can be sure there will be plenty of fried corn taco shells ready to be filled with seasoned ground beef, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes. If things are getting really wild, there may even be some guacamole tucked in there somewhere.
While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this version of a taco, there are healthier ways to build one. We could certainly benefit by looking to our neighbors to our south when it comes to creating delicious tacos that don’t pile on the calories. In fact, many traditional Mexican versions consist of lean proteins topped simply with fresh cilantro and onion. They use an array of chilies and local produce to add low-calorie flavor.
While I enjoy the traditional ground beef taco, my heart belongs to tacos filled with grilled or lightly sautéed seafood. One of my favorite versions involves marinating shrimp briefly in a blend of fresh citrus juices and jalapeño. Cooking the shrimp in a cast iron pan forms a magnificent crust and increases the iron content of the dish (some of the iron from the pan will beneficially leach into foods you cook). Top that with a cabbage slaw that’s made from reserved marinade and Greek yogurt and you’ve got a healthy, yet simple weeknight supper!
Be sure to follow safe food handling practices when dealing with raw seafood. Wash your hands after handling raw shrimp using the following technique (which, by the way, is how you should wash your hands no matter what you’re handling!). First, get your hands wet. Then add some soap and lather away, getting between your fingers, on top of your hands and underneath your nails. Give your hands a good scrub in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds (this is about how long it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” twice). Rinse hands in warm running water and then pat dry with a clean towel or let them air dry. Now don’t you feel better?
Citrus Shrimp Tacos
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 jalapeño, washed and chopped (remove seeds and membrane for less spice)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, cleaned
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 avocado, washed, peeled, seeded and cut into slices or chunks
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, washed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
- 8 each corn tortillas, 6-inch, warmed
- After properly cleaning and preparing all of the ingredients for the marinade, place in a blender or in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until mixture is smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade, cover and store in the refrigerator for later use.
- Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the shrimp and seal the bag. Gently shake until the shrimp are well-coated in marinade. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and reseal it. Put the bag in a bowl or other container and place it in the lowest spot in the refrigerator, away from fresh or other ready-to-eat foods. This helps prevent possible cross-contamination. Marinate the shrimp for 15-30 minutes. Food safety note: Always marinate in the refrigerator.
- While the shrimp are marinating, prepare the cabbage slaw. In a bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt and the reserved marinade. Season with salt to taste. Add cabbage and toss to coat. Cover and return to the refrigerator until use.
- To cook the shrimp, place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. (A nonstick pan will work as well.) Add the remaining oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Working in batches if necessary, remove shrimp from the marinade, shaking off any excess marinade, and add to the skillet. Avoid overcrowding, which lowers the temperature of the skillet causing shrimp to steam instead of sauté. Season with salt and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Cook until shrimp shells turn pink, and the flesh is pearly and opaque (the internal temperature should reach 145°F).
- To serve: Fill each tortilla with shrimp and top with cabbage slaw. Garnish with avocado, cilantro and tomatoes.