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COOKING ON DEADLINE: Recipe for sweet-and-tangy shrimp tacos

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What I really wanted was pizza. But I was too lazy to drive down to the pizza shop to get it, and they only deliver if you order $40 or more. And as much as I like pizza, that's a lot of pizza.

So I needed a dinner that was equally comforting, equally flavourful, but required even less effort and time than heading into town. My inspiration? Well, aside from the pizza I wasn't having, that is... A 1-pound bag of frozen raw shrimp.

I firmly believe that if you like shrimp, you should always have a few bags of them in the freezer. They thaw quickly, and cook even more quickly. As in minutes. I decided to convert my bag into sweet-and-tangy shrimp tacos, a good eat-with-your-hands sort of comfort food that would come together with minimal fuss.

Aside from the cooking of the shrimp, use this recipe just as a guide. I like to top my tacos with soft goat cheese and avocado, but use whatever you like. Ditto for the flour tortillas; corn would be fine, too. Or if you really want, take all the same ingredients and dump them over a plate of tortilla chips for easy nachos.

Whatever you do, don't skip the tiny amount of sugar added when cooking the shrimp. It's a trick I learned from Alex Guarnaschelli. It acts like salt to help highlight the natural briny-sweet flavour of the shrimp.

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SWEET-AND-TANGY SHRIMP TACOS

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 4

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 pound shelled, raw large shrimp

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup thinly sliced Peppadew peppers

Ground black pepper

Four 8-inch flour tortillas

1 heart romaine lettuce, finely chopped

2 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and sugar and saute until just barely pink and firm, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and Peppadews, then heat for another minute. Season with black pepper.

Arrange a quarter of the romaine down the centre of each tortilla, then top with a quarter of the shrimp and Peppadew mixture. Top each serving with a quarter of the cheese and avocado slices. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 460 calories; 190 calories from fat (41 per cent of total calories); 22 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 195 mg cholesterol; 34 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 31 g protein; 750 mg sodium.

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J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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