By 2050, the world will have 9.6 billion mouths to feed. I learned this startling fact at a recent Cooking for Solutions conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The experts noted that to keep us all fed, we'll need a 69 percent increase in calorie production — and sources of protein besides meat.
Producing and eating more seafood is one solution, but first we consumers need to get on board. Surveys confirm that many of us don't buy seafood because we aren't sure how to choose or prepare it.
Here's my solution for the week: cedar-plank shrimp. You may be familiar with the ease of cooking and the subtle smoky flavor of planked salmon. Planking also works for shrimp and scallops. It's easier than skewering little bits of seafood or worrying that they'll fall between the grates. You can buy cedar planks in the seafood department at many grocery stores, and in the seasonal grilling area at home improvement stores such as Home Depot. I often want a large quantity, so I buy a bundle of untreated cedar shingles at my local home center.
A couple of tips: Because shrimp are smaller than a salmon fillet, set the empty, soaked cedar plank directly on the hot grill rack for about five minutes before arranging the shrimp so that the flames have a chance to activate the wood. After that, close the lid and let the shrimp smoke until they are opaque. The time ranges depending on shrimp size and grill heat, but they're usually done in five minutes or less. To get the cedar to impart as much flavor as possible, use peeled shrimp. And for the best flavor, try to find wild shrimp.
I may not be around in 2050, but no matter. I want to do my small part to make sure that those I know and love — as well as those billions of others across the globe — live in a world where food is pleasurable and abundant.
Cedar-Plank Shrimp With Fresh and Sun-Dried Tomato-Basil Relish
- 3/4 cup Italian plum tomatoes, cut into small dice
- 3/4 cup sun- or oven-dried tomatoes (try to find soft, plump ones), cut into small dice
- 1/2 medium red onion, cut into small dice
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 pound large peeled shrimp, preferably wild caught
Soak cedar in water, weighting it so that it stays submerged at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Mix tomatoes, onions, basil, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper in a medium bowl; let stand until ready to serve. (Can be covered and set at room temperature for several hours.)
When ready to cook, heat gas grill, igniting all burners on high for at least 10 minutes. While grill heats, toss shrimp with remaining mix oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Place soaked cedar on hot grill grate, close lid and watch until wood starts to smoke, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp to plank; close lid and continue to grill until shrimp are opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove plank from grill, let shrimp rest a few minutes and then serve with relish served alongside.
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