I tasted the tomato-less version of saganaki in Chalkidiki, in northern Greece, many years ago. It was prepared with the local mussels which were wonderful. But in my kitchen in Athens, as I was trying the recipe, I had to use frozen mussel since fresh ones were not readily available then, and the result wasn’t great. I decided to substitute shrimp for the mussel and I loved the dish, so I included it in my first book The Foods of Greece (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1993).
In my original recipe I gave the option of mussels or shrimp, but over the years I have decided that the shrimp’s sweetness is perfectly balanced with the lemony sauce, the herbs and the briny feta. It is a matter of taste, of course, but I definitely prefer shrimp for this soupy saganaki.
2 pounds (1 kilo) medium (#5) shrimp
1/3 cup (70 ml) olive oil
6 green onions (scallions) white plus most of the green part, coarsely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
About 1 pound very tender mixed greens (turnip greens or kale, spinach or chard, outer leaves of Romaine etc.) coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch rocket (arugula) coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup fish stock (from the shrimp shells), or more as needed
1 cup crumbled feta, or more, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
3-4 slices toasted whole-wheat bread, for serving
Wash, de-vein and peel the shrimp, keeping the tail on. Drain and refrigerate until needed. Place the shells in a saucepan, add water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the stock.
In a heavy-bottomed skillet heat the oil and sauté the onions for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and toss for 1 minute, then pour in the wine, add the mustard and stir briefly to dilute; add the greens, the parsley and rocket, 1/2 cup stock and the lemon. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked, adding a little more stock if needed. If the greens need more cooking, remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside, then continue cooking the greens until tender. Add the shrimp and the dill to the greens, and toss.
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with 1 cup feta and with a little salt—feta is usually salty enough–and add freshly ground pepper. Don’t stir, but shake the pan to distribute the ingredients evenly. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, with more feta on the side, and crusty bread to sop up the delicious juices.