Wednesday, March 19

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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Simona Carini said...

We have been planning to do what you and Jeff just did for more than 5 years. The only difference is that we would have to fly, so the logistics are a bit more complicated. I am glad you enjoyed the day. The photos are lovely and the fruit was a real bargain.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

I have to admit, Susan, when I saw the words "shrimp" and "tacos" together, I was dubious. But the salsa made me a believer. This sounds tart and lively and delicious!

Kalyn Denny said...

I do love shrimp tacos, and yes, I like them more than wildflowers. (Utah has some beautiful desert wildflowers too, but you're right, they're basically weeds.)

Susan @ SGCC said...

Susan, I love seafood tacos, especially shrimp. That citrus salsa looks so fresh and lovely too. A great dish to welcome Spring!

Anonymous said...

you know, we had planned on driving out to the desert this past weekend to see the flowers but decided to put it off until this weekend. we heard that it was like a sea of cars out in the desert! i still want to go, but i think i'd be willing to settle for some great shrimp tacos and a $4 15lb bag of grapefruit!

cmoore said...

oy, this makes me miss california, and all it's gastronomic glories.

Gattina Cheung said...

I chuckled when I read your and Jeff's conversation :) ... but that ocean of flowers, got to be paradise on earth!
Susan, excuse me being nosy :P... do you upload your photos via Blogger (apology if my guessing wrong)? I used to use Blogger, but my photos lost some "charity", so I switch to Flickr... Your photos are brillant, so I think they will look even sharper from Flickr.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I can entirely sympathize with your enthusiasm to make a long trip to see flowers...sort of like how when I lived up north, and people would plan all of these trips to go see the leaves changing in autumn. To me, there's plenty of trees dying and dropping their leaves right here! But anyways...

The food sounds great! I am a bit cautious around shrimp (I'm still breaking out of my shell with seafood...ah bad puns at 7 AM), but this sounds like something I would very eagerly try.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love grapefruit, I love shrimp tacos, and I love long car rides -- but right now, on this oh-so-bleak Rhode Island morning, I'm most of all enjoying the virtual view of those hillsides covered with wildflowers.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

I prefer the shrimp tacos. They look so good - I can't eat a weed but those tacos I sure can!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Too funny that the fruit was better than the flowers. Good for you for going nonetheless!

Finla said...

Delicious and refreshing. Yumm

Peter M said...

Seafood tacos are "da bomb" and a little spice is nice too! Great combo of ingredients...Killah!

RecipeGirl said...

Love those shrimp tacos. Sometimes I don't think people in other parts of the world don't quite get the fish taco thing. They're great!

You couldn't get me out there to the desert. I'd rather go up to Carlsbad and sit and stare at the flower fields!

Rowena said...

Given my interest in flowers other than the tropical sort (seen enough of those), I probably would have been joining the rest of the digital camera-toting crowd. ;-) Really nice!

But it's the complete SCORE of 30 pounds worth of citrus for only 7$ that floored me. I'll trade you however much you want of zeppole for some oranges and grapefruit anytime. Thanks for stopping by!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

I just started making shrimp tacos this year and I love, love, love them. I can't wait to try your salsa!

Anonymous said...

"A weed is only a flower out of place." :-)

Anonymous said...

despite the massive amount of tacos i've consumed in the past week, i will still gladly eat several to a dozen of these. shrimp tacos with citrus and avocado are *clearly* better that colorful desert weeds.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I'm the type of guy that would have been impressed by the "weeds." I love splashes of color wherever I can find them, and that valley shot is majestic! The shrimp tacos have some pretty fetching splashes of color, too!

Veron said...

Oh Gawd! That does look like the best shrimp tacos I have ever seen!

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

I am missing Mexican food so much right now... :(

Those look very very good.

Deborah said...

I'd be excited about a bunch of those oranges, too!!

I love shrimp tacos, and these sound fantastic!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

simona-I hope you enjoy it if you do go.

terry-Yay! Another shrimp taco convert!

kalyn-I've heard Utah has good fall foliage too, but I'm skeptical since I grew up in New England. I'd still love to see Utah, though.

susan-It was refreshing and light.

amanda-Go early, if you do go. Seriously. The traffic is ridiculous.

cmoore-I know. It's so beautiful.

gattina-Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I've just been playing around with it, and they do look sharper from Flickr than Blogger. I couldn't figure out why they were losing their sharpness, now thanks to you I do. :)

mike-Yeah, plus for me, foliage means one place: New England. It's a great and tasty way to get accustomed to seafood.

lydia-Glad to share a little spring weather with you.

meeta-Weeds, bad. Tacos, good.

gretchen-It was fun.

happy cook-Absolutely!

peter-Killah! ;)

lore-Trust me, they don't. My family thought I was insane when I first mentioned them.

rowena-Sounds like a good deal to me. :)

judy-I hope you like it. The citrus compliments the seafood deliciously.


michelle-I like you. :) Thanks for visiting.

tw-"Majestic!" Wow! Thanks, TW. You always know how to make me smile. :)

veron-They were wickit awesome!

sara-I know what you mean. I wish I could have you over. :)

deborah-And they were unbelievably juicy and delicious!

Toni said...

I love shrimp tacos, and I think I'll take the ride just for the fruit!

I've learned over the years that there are desert people and then there are the rest. Some people just flip over the subtleties of the colors of the desert, and others prefer the acid colors that smack you in the face. Both are fine, as long as you know which one you'd prefer a long drive to go see!

Cakespy said...

Sounds amazing--all of it! The flowers, the adventure...but ESPECIALLY the tacos. Dammmmn.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'll take shrimp tacos over the dessert and wildflowers any day. But it's all part of the big picture: Jeff gets his wildflowers and you get the tacos, one followed the other.
Wonderful adventure.

brandin + kari said...

What a great story! The picture of the shrimp tacos is gorgeous and your salsa sounds divine! Also, I love jicama in anything and I always forget to put it in my salads.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like A LOT of driving! Not my favorite thing to do either, but I do love a good nature hike - even better with fresh (cheap!) produce!

Thank you for the Shrimp Taco recipe. We will be making this soon. Now that the weather is sunnier & warmer, these tacos seem like the perfect way to pay tribute to the brighter climate.

xoxox Amy

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Beautiful flowers and salsa! Very interesting recipe... Margot

YankeeSoaper said...

Gorgeous flowers and your shrimp taco recipe sounds delicious.

Tracy said...

What a funny post! Even though the flowers didn't meet your expectations, the photos are beautiful! Shrimp tacos look good, too!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

toni-I guess I'm not "desert people" then, huh?

cakespy-I'm with you on that!

tanna-I like the way you put that. :)

anticiplate-I love jicama with citrus-- such great flavors and contrasting textures.

amy-There are plenty of places for a vigorous hike near Anza!

margot-Citrus and seafood really go well together.

yankeesoaper-Those tacos were the highlight of the day. Thanks for visiting.

tracy-Aw, thanks; I'm glad it made you laugh.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures! I'm totally trying this,'s making me hungry!

I also made the Shamrock Shake, your version :), on St. Patty's night. YUM! I put crumbled thin mints in there too, though!

Delicious! Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Shrimp tacos are one of my favorites. I really like the sound of that citrus salsa! It sounds like it would go really well with the shrimp tacos.

Indonesia Eats said...

Can you share your shrimp tacos with me, please :)

glamah16 said...

Oh Yeah!

Dani Spies said...

OMG...that is a great story. I was cracking up imagining you looking at the purple "weeds"-- unimpressed. But like you said five hours of driving seems a small price to pay for those delicious looking tacos! I'm bookmarking this one to try.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Thanks for the shrimp taco recipe, I'm a big fan of fish taco's, I order them everytime I go to this local restaurant near my house. I'll definately be making these!!

Anonymous said...

You sure are a hard woman to please ;) Maybe Jeff should have said that there were wild foods instead of flowers growing in the desert ;)

Delicious looking taco you have there!

Rachael said...

Oh Susan I love your humorous post titles and giggle-inducing stories. I agree about the wildflowers.

When I lived in Arizona, I did very much enjoy one event - right after a rainfall, the light green misting of grass over the foothills always made me sigh. Personally, I find the grand views of mountain scenery and large scale color striation much more enjoyable than closeups of the brown vegetation.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you . . . I think the tacos (and that salsa -- yum!) would have gotten more oohs and ahs out of me than the weeds-um-flowers. Although that 'sea' looks spectacular.

Elle said...

I'm a fall foliage girl myself, but that far away shot of the sea of color is pretty nice. The shrimp tacos are even better...fresh fruit and avacados obviously being the stars.
Happy Easter Susan!

Anonymous said...

What Alanna said about the wildflowers!

Love the shrimp tacos, love the picture of the hillsides covered with the flowers. In fact, lots of great pictures with this post.

Jaime said...

i love fish tacos...but have never had a shrimp taco before. i LOVE anything with avocados in it, so this looks amazing to me! :) the flowers didn't look all that impressive to me either, but that picture of the sweeping landscape w/the sea of flowers is pretty awesome :)

Anonymous said...

I love your citrusy salsa, tasty and brilliant!
Happy Easter sprinkled with bright spring sunlight :)

Amy said...

Holy moly, 15 pounds for $3? That would have made my day too. But yes... no matter what they say, wildflowers are just pretty weeds. ;)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

OMG, what incredible landscapes! Those flowers are really magnificent!

Your tacos are to die for! I love that kind of delicious and tasty food...

Thursday, I ate pork (marinaded in Adobo paste) tacos with guacamole and cheddar... Wonderful!



Anonymous said...

Those are colorful weeds.. but i'm like you, it won't be a good day until i get some tacos in my system. haha. Looks delicious!

Manggy said...

Oh boy! I do not get people who love the desert.

People who love shrimp, though? My soulmates, heh heh :) I'd love to try it in a taco someday!

Brilynn said...

I'm with you, the citrus was the best part of that trip! Awesome tacos!

Ivy said...

I loved the pictures with the wildflowers. Your trip sounded great.

Cris said...

The desert pictures are gorgeous, you`re just getting better and better each day with your photography! I`ve had fish tacos before, but never with shrimp, must give it a shot!

Anonymous said...

Susan, all I can say is, "I'm jealous. I'm very, very jealous."


The Chef said...

"Oooh, look at all the purple weeds"

Hhahahhaha that had me cracking u

If you wanted to make the FISH taco version of this, what type of Fish do you think would be the tastiest?

Susan from Food Blogga said...

lydia-yay! With the crumbled mints, it must have been awesome!

kevin-The citrus really compliments the shrimp well.

indonesiaeats-Sure. :)


dani-Hope you like them!

marie-Great! I'm happy to hear it.

linda-Thank goodness he's so patient. :)

rachael-Thanks so much! I appreciate that.

lia-A girl after my own heart.

elle-Ahh, nothing beats fall foliage.

julie-Thanks so much!

jaime-It was impressive.

lore-Oh, thanks!

amy-Yup, I was a happy camper after that.

rosa-I love adobo paste.

zen-I like the way you think.

manggy-hey, soulmate! ;)

brilynn-I'm still eating that citrus!

ivy-It was fun.

cris-Why, thanks so much. I appreciate that.

diane-When you live in Southern California, you get that a lot.:)

the chef-I like mahi-mahi and tilapia the most for fish tacos. They're white, flaky fish with a pleasant, mild flavor.

Anonymous said...

I made this recipe last night and it was superb!! Fresh & juicy with a kick, really wonderful!! I'm secretly happy my dinner guest declined because I now have leftovers for lunch and I can't wait!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Anonymous-Oh, that's fantastic (not your dinner guest declining)-- that you loved the tacos. Thanks so much for letting me know. :)

Jeanne said...

Despite living in South Africa for the 1st 30 years of my life, I never went up to Namaqualand to see our equivalent of the desert erupting with wildflowers.

I LOVE the shrimp tacos and just look at how beautiful that citrus is!