Unlike the rest of the country, in the Bay Area we don’t get our summer until September and October. Now that we’re finally getting some warm temps around here, I don’t want a heavy dinner. Just as those first twinges of fall are probably making everyone in colder climes around the country crave comfort food, I want a salad for dinner. And for some reason this week I was craving shrimp, too.
I first made this salad many years ago for M., a former boyfriend. As I recall, it was one of the first things I made for him. Now, lest you think that either 1) he was the type of wimpy guy that just wants to eat salad; or 2) I can’t be more impressive in the kitchen than that when making food for a boyfriend, in my defense it was summer and we lived in Massachusetts. For those of you who have never experienced the treat of a summer in Massachusetts, let me just say that it is usually very hot and very humid. And being New England, there is no central air conditioning anywhere except commercial buildings or, maybe, in apartments built in the last 10 years! I don’t know about you but when it’s 85 degrees with 85% humidity, like it usually feels even at 7 p.m. on a Massachusetts summer’s eve, I barely want to eat anything—except maybe salad.
So I invited M. for dinner and, yes, made salad. I wanted it to be substantial enough to be a meal, but also require minimal cooking that it wouldn’t heat up my no-AC apartment even more. This was back in the days when I actually used recipes rather than just make stuff up like I tend to do now, so I found a recipe for Shrimp Salad with Zucchini and Basil in one of my Bon Appetit magazines and did that.
This week, craving salad and shrimp once again, I pulled up the old recipe on epicurious.com, but adapted it, as usual, since I’m virtually incapable of following a recipe as written. I wanted more vegetables, and I also felt like shrimp beg for Old Bay Seasoning, so those things needed to be added. I did follow their recipe for the dressing, which you can find here.
First, a few words about cleaning shrimp. I actually don’t mind peeling my own shrimp, but you can always buy frozen or already peeled and deveined if you want. De-veining, or “cleaning out the poopshoot” can be sort of a pain in the poopshoot, but make sure to get that stuff out. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want some other creature’s intestinal tract in my intestinal tract. What always freaks me out a bit about de-veining shrimp, though, is those shrimp that don’t seem to have any poopshoot and that you either can’t de-vein or it seems like their gut tract is on the same side as their little feet (which I always imagine are in scurrying position) rather than along the back where it’s supposed to be. Is this just some sort of genetic defect? Does this mean someone has already removed “the vein” for me? I don’t know but I find it a bit skeevy—I mean what’s up with that?!? (If anyone out there has an answer to this weird phenomenon, feel free to comment and educate me!)
(Adapted) Shrimp Salad with Zucchini, Corn, Tomato and Avocado (serves 2)
4-5 cups mixed salad greens, washed and dried (I used arugula, mixed greens and frissee)
½ lb. large shrimp, washed, peeled and deveined
2 small zucchini, diced
1 c. corn
1 c. heirloom tomato, diced
Old Bay Seasoning
1) Wash greens and dry with salad spinner or paper towel.
2) Wash, peel and de-vein shrimp. Set aside.
3) Bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil on stove and add zucchini and corn – cook for about 3 minutes, then drain.
4) Bring 3-4 cups of water, with 1-2 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, to a boil. Immerse shrimp in boiling water, boil until opaque—about 1-2 minutes. Remove shrimp from seasoned water.
5) Assemble salad in layers as follows: greens, zucchini/corn mixture, tomato, shrimp, avocado, dressing. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with parm.
Serve with some crusty French bread and either a nice white or a nice rosé. If you want to can also add some cooked whole grains to this, like a layer of quinoa, brown rice or pearled barley or some such. I’d also suggest topping with toasted pine nuts or even adding a smidge (yes, that’s a technical term–:)) of honey or agave nectar to the dressing.
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