Pacific shrimp: A quick, go-to summer protein

Every person responsible for getting a meal from stove to table — even if it's only for yourself and Fido, and even if you truly love to cook — has contemplated the advantages of a live-in chef (or at least the wisdom of moving closer to a really fine pizza parlor).

For me, it's an annual rebellion that hits its zenith in summer. There's no time when the burden of getting a meal on the table can be more disagreeable than right now: a time for hikes in the Cascades, bike rides to the county fair, float trips on the river.

At some point in your life as chief cook, you'll do the math: "How many meals will I have to cook before I die?"

When I calculated my own fate, it was so far into the thousands that I just wanted to take a nap. Believe me, it's not an inspiring exercise.

What can I possibly make that would complement a summer lifestyle? How about reservations?

Well, since most budgets can't tolerate such an indulgence on a nightly scale, we're left with figuring out meals to assemble that fill the bill in the category of tasty and nutritious without creating a high level of stress and mess. I started by visualizing all of the fresh convenience foods we have to choose from this time of year. And right there at the top of the list, along with backyard-fresh produce, were Pacific shrimp.

You know, those little pink guys that come into season every spring off the Oregon coast and hang around all the way through October. Oh sure, they're available year-round in their frozen state. But for that really extraordinary ocean-kissed flavor, this is when you should be using them. Plus, they're one of my favorite go-to proteins for nights when we're angling for lighter fare that comes together fast yet flavorful.

One of their most appealing qualities is that they are already cooked. I still like to give them a quick rinse to refresh the flavor. Then it's on to assembling salads. Here are a few to consider. Bon appetit!

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at janrd@proaxis.com.

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