Farmers Market Favorite | Yucatan-inspired Spring Shrimp & Lemon Soup | Market Chef Maggie Perkins

It was one of those gorgeous spring weekends of which dreams are made at the Texas Farmers' Market at Lakeline and Mueller. We celebrated Earth Day with activities like the new composting program, and even over at the chef demo tent, where I tackled the issue of food waste, and shared a few ideas for using those parts and pieces we often discard.

This crowd-pleasing Yucatan-inspired Spring Shrimp & Lemon Soup used stock made from shrimp shells and the fibrous green tops of leeks, along with a few additions, to replace the usual store-bought chicken stock used in the traditional recipe, and to utilize what others may often consider 'garbage'. One man's trash is another man's treasure, as they say. The result is a light and flavorful soup with half the sodium of the soup from which it was inspired.
Read more about reducing, reusing, and recycling, including one more use for those discarded shells, here
Low sodium, low fat, low calorie, this simple soup is a Maggie favorite during warmer days and as a bright beginning for summer dinners. Served cool, room temperature, or warm, it's a versatile workhorse of a dish, and I think you'll like it, too.

Yucatan Spring Shrimp & Lemon Soup
Market Chef Maggie Perkins

This light soup serves 4 as a full course or 6 as a first course. If serving as an entree, perhaps a few slices of perfectly ripe avocado might add to the satiety of the dish, served with steamed corn tortillas.

1 pound raw shrimp, (26-30 per pound), shells on, peeled, shells reserved

1 small bunch leeks, greens and whites separated, whites thinly sliced, washed well and strained

2 carrots, sliced into chunks

6 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 4-inch cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

½-1 tablespoon olive oil

2 jalapeƱo peppers, thinly sliced

1 large Meyer lemon, juice and zest (see note, below)

1 bunch cilantro, stems minced, ½ leaves chopped, separated

1 tsp salt, or to taste

1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced

Shrimp stock: In a large saucepan or dutch oven, cover shrimp shells, green tops of leeks, and carrots with 6 cups of water. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a rolling simmer, covered, for 30 minutes to an hour.

Toasting Spices: In a small skillet over high heat, toast cumin, cinnamon, and whole cloves until they begin to release their fragrance, stirring constantly and taking care not to scorch. This should take no more than 2 minutes. When toasted, add to simmering stock, above, for 30 minutes to an hour.

To spice toasting skillet, add just enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan. Over medium high heat, saute leeks until limp and slightly golden. Remove and reserve.

Remove stock from heat and remove solids by straining through a fine mesh strainer. Return strained stock to pot.

Over medium heat, bring stock to a rolling simmer, adding sliced jalapeno peppers, minced cilantro stems, the zest and juice of 1 large (2 small) Meyer lemon, toasted sliced leeks, and salt, to taste. Simmer 15 minutes, covered.

Add shrimp and heat through until shrimp are completely opaque. Remove soup from heat and serve, garnishing each bowl generously with sliced radishes and chopped cilantro.


Substitutions: Meyer lemons have a unique sweet floral fragrance and flavor that is unrivaled, however they are only available late winter and early spring. To substitute, try a combination of fresh orange and lemon juices and zest, or simply go with sweet limes (small key limes) as the traditional soup uses. In absence of leeks, try spring onions or large scallions. And should you wish to skip the shrimp shelling, try clam juice and/or low-sodium chicken broth in place of the homemade shrimp stock. But do it at your peril! Because it's just not the same.

Make ahead preparations: You can make the stock, strain, and freeze for up to 3 months for optimum freshness. You'll find you can let it thaw in the pot over low heat, then proceed with the soup, above.

Disclosure: This soup was prepared for the Texas Farmers' Markets where I am contracted as Market Chef. The following items were provided by market vendors for use in promotion:

Fresh Gulf Shrimp-- K and S Seafood
Leeks, Carrot, Radish, Cilantro-- Johnson's Backyard Garden

If you find yourself in the Greater Austin area in May, I will be at TFM Lakeline on May 13 and 27, and TFM Mueller on May 14 and 28. Stop by for a bite and let's chat about FOOD.

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