Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's Better Than Desert Wildflowers? Shrimp Tacos, That's What.

more purple wildflowers

Ever since we moved to Southern California five years ago, every spring we hear the same chorus: “You’ve got to go to Anza-Borrego. They have the most gorgeous wildflowers you’ve ever seen.”
Every spring Jeff tries to convince me to drive the 2 ½ hours to see them, and every spring I find some excuse not to. It’s not the drive (I love driving). It’s just that we have flowers everywhere we look here. Plus, I'm a fall foliage girl.
Two weekends ago, however, San Diego was all abuzz about this being the BEST wildflower season since 2005 (because of our unusually high rainfall-- a whopping 4.43 inches since last July). Jeff asked again, and I just couldn't say no. So we packed a lunch, grabbed our maps, and drove to Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Apparently every person within the San Diego county limits decided to go to Anza-Borrego that day too. After waiting in line at the visitors’ center for nearly 30 minutes, a park ranger told us, “It’s a sea of brilliant color out there. Almost as good as 2005! You guys definitely picked the right day.” Jeff flashed me a big smile and said, “See, we picked the right day!”
We followed his directions and ended up on a dusty, dirt road. Jeff hopped out of the car, and said, “Wow! Look at those purple flowers!”
“You mean the weeds?” I said.
“They’re not weeds, they’re wildflowers. Look at them all!” he said.
“They look like weeds,” I said.

purple wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert Park

Anza-Borrego is technically a desert, which in my translation means sand with weeds in it. Based upon the “oohs” and “aahs” I was hearing, and the obscene number of Nikon D80's snapping pictures, it seems I was the only one not impressed.
So I went along: “Ooh, look at all those purple weeds.”

yellow wildflowers

OK, I admit, there were some lovely flowers, but the best part of the day was the ride home. We stopped at an orange and grapefruit grove where we bought a 15-pound bag of freshly picked navel oranges for $3 and a 15-pound bag of pink grapefruits for $4! Fresh fruit at a bargain price—it just doesn’t get better. I was very impressed.

fresh grapefruits and oranges

The scenery was spectacular; we finally saw the “sea of brilliant colors” we were promised, and it was awe-inspiring. We even spotted a few idyllic farms.

wildflower landscape near Anza-Borrego Desert Park

We ended the day with a simple, delicious meal of shrimp tacos with citrus-avocado salsa. Our fresh sweet oranges and tart grapefruits were tossed with creamy local avocados (from Terri, who you’ll learn more about in a later post) and sprinkled on top of spicy, crispy shrimp tacos. I took one bite and declared, “Now this was worth 5 hours of driving.”

shrimp tacos with citrus-avocado salsa

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus-Avocado Salsa
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 ruby red or pink grapefruit, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1 navel orange peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1/4 cup peeled jicama, diced
1 avocado, diced and sprinkled with lime juice to prevent discoloration
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (without seeds)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

24 extra large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil, for searing shrimp
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 flour or corn tortillas

To make the salsa, simply combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and toss gently until well combined.

Place the shrimp in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat and set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning to ensure that they brown evenly on both sides. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over the shrimp and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Remove to a plate when cooked.

To assemble tacos, heat tortillas in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1 minute per side or, using metal tongs, simply hold over an open flame until warmed and slightly charred. Place three shrimp on each tortilla; serve with salsa and extra fresh cilantro for garnish. Serve immediately.

You might also like these citrus-y dishes:

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