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Handle--and Store--With Care


Cooking and handling Santa Barbara spot prawns can be daunting, not just because of their great size, but because it's essential to purchase them alive. They're best prepared as soon as possible, certainly the day of purchase.

When you buy them, the prawns should be packed for travel--covered in crushed ice and sealed in a plastic bag works well. Once home, if you're not cooking them immediately, place the prawns on a rack set over a large pan and cover them with ice. Don't store them in water; it will dilute their natural salty flavor, and as salt water creatures, they won't survive.

No matter how you plan to cook them, we found that plunging them head-first into a large pot of boiling water for 30 seconds kills them without much effort. Be sure to cover the pot as soon as you add the shrimp, then drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water until they're cool enough to handle.

For the Spot Sticker recipe, immediately twist off the heads after cooling and peel and devein as you would for shrimp.

For the grilled prawn recipe, trim the prawns' long antennas before tossing them with the oil and seasonings. It may not be necessary to devein them, but after grilling, check for black veins as you cut them in half, and remove any with a sharp knife.

Here are some sources for spot prawns:

* Fish King, 722 N. Glendale Ave., Glendale, (818) 244-2161. $15.95 a pound. Call first for availability. The market keeps a list of customers to be contacted when prawns become available.

* Bristol Farms, all locations, by special order. Price and supply based on availability. About $20 a pound.

* Los Angeles Fish, 420 Stanford Ave., downtown L.A., (213) 629-1213. Call for hours and availability. $15.50 a pound.

* Anjin II, a farmers market stand, sells the prawns for $18 a pound, based on availability, at these markets and others:

Santa Monica, Wednesday (Arizona Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.); Thousand Oaks, Thursday (Wilbur Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, 3 to 7 p.m.); Santa Monica, Saturday (Arizona Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.); and Encino, Sunday (17400 Victory Blvd. between Balboa Boulevard and White Oak Avenue, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

* West Coast Fish sells the prawns for $20 per pound, based on availability, at these farmers markets and others:

Torrance, Tuesday (Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd. between Carson Street and Sepulveda Boulevard, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.); Long Beach, Friday (downtown), (Broadway at Promenade North, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.); Calabasas, Saturday (23504 Calabasas Road at El Canon Avenue, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.); Pasadena, Saturday (Victory Park) (2800 block of North Sierra Madre Boulevard, between Paloma Street and Washington Boulevard, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.); and Hollywood, Sunday (Ivar Avenue between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

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