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Tales of Travel
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Shrimp Pizza on Flatbread

One of the perks of living in the country's most diverse county is the diverse bounty of groceries on tap. After enjoying tasty shrimp pizzas in Panama, I found a grocery store here in Astoria, Queens that stocks five kinds of shrimp--one of which is Panamanian. This recipe isn't quite the same as the one I reverse-engineered from Aguadulce, Panama, because I found a serendipitous combination of ingredients available locally, from Italian crushed tomatoes (available at an Italian deli on Broadway) to flatbread that is made right here in Astoria/Long Island City.

With some careful shopping, you should also be able to find most, if not all, the ingredients below.

If you're more interested in Panamanian cuisine as it was served to me in Panama (including a scrumptious palm heart stew), you can read about it right in the pdf sample of my travel narrative book Is There a Hole in the Boat? Tales of Travel in Panama without a Car.


2 pieces of flatbread (see note)
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned (see note)
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
4 oz crushed tomatoes (see note)
4 oz + 1/2 oz muenster cheese, shredded (mozzarella is an adequate replacement)
olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 for 15 minutes.

While oven is heating up, mix the chopped garlic with a little olive oil.

If shrimp are large, cut them up into 1" pieces. Place shrimp in a bowl and toss with olive oil and some salt. There is no need to add salt anywhere else in this recipe, because the cheese and the crushed tomatoes usually have salt in them already.

Place flatbreads in the preheated oven, directly on the lowest rack. Flip after 3-5 minutes. Take out when both sides just begin to brown.

Lightly brush both sides of flatbreads with olive oil, making sure that the perimeters are covered. Place the flatbreads on a pizza tray. Spoon a thin layer of the crushed tomatoes onto the flatbread. Spread the sauce as close as you can to the edges. (Don't cook the crushed tomatoes first. They cook on the pizza.) Place a thin layer of shredded cheese on the flatbreads. Save a little cheese for later. Using a fork, flick the garlic on top of the cheese. Place tray in oven. Bake for about 3 minutes.

Take tray out of oven. Shake oil off of shrimp, and place shrimp into the melted cheese. If there is too much oil on the pizzas, sop up with a paper towel. If you saved a little cheese, sprinkle on top of shrimp. Put tray back in oven and bake for about 5 minutes, or until shrimp turn completely pink.

Take out tray and place under a hot broiler until the cheese is bubbling and is covered with little brown spots (watch it carefully). Serves 2.

This dish goes great with a chilled bottle of Pinot Blanc from Alsace.

Anything go wrong? See the troubleshooting section.

Notes on...
Flatbread: Look for Mediterranean (made in L.I.C.) or Kontos brands. The bread needs to be the kind that is slightly oiled and does not have a pocket. "Sahara" brand is useless and won't do, nor will Whole Foods brand.

Shrimp: Panamanian shrimp are delightfully sweet, as are shrimp from most of Central and South America. If Panamanian shrimp are not available, look for Ecuadorian or Gulf shrimp. Shrimp originating from farms in China are cheap, but they tend to have much less flavor.

Crushed tomatoes: I use Star Polpabella brand Italian crushed tomatoes. Here is a test for whatever brand you want to use: eat some chunks right from the can. If they have a good balance of sweetness and acidity without a metallic bite, then they will probably work.

Troubleshooting Section
The cheese didn't brown.
The cheese was too thick, or it wasn't broiled enough. If the latter was the case, don't be afraid to singe the suckers. That scorching broiler is what makes the pizzas taste great. You're not making soggy quesadillas here.

The crust is burned.
The cheese was too thick and needed too long to brown. Or: the sauce/cheese was not close enough to the edge.

The crust is soggy.
The flatbreads were not toasted enough before adding ingredients. Or: too much olive oil was brushed onto them.

Recipe archive

©2007 Darrin DuFord