Since my last post, salad consumption at home has increased by leaps and bounds, yay! It just feels right. And the scorching sun and overwhelming heat has kept me from delving into the recipe I had originally planned as the 2nd part of this salad series – one that requires lots of grilling. The growing a baby thing is definitely contributing to my extreme aversion to being hot since I can now only imagine spending most of the day inside relishing in the air-conditioned environment & NOT outside over a grill! So for this installment, I chose to stay inside and play with both cooling and warming ingredients. The Watermelon & Spicy Shrimp Salad highlights a spicy/smoky spice blend that coats the naturally sweet shrimp, paired with sweet, cooling watermelon. You’ll find a few other fun flavors in the mix. Enjoy!
Roasted Gypsy Peppers
Sweet Seedless Watermelon
Spice Blend for Shrimp
Mixed Spice Blend for Shrimp
Shrimp about to be cooked
Cooked Spicy Shrimp
Watermelon & Spicy Shrimp Salad!
Watermelon & Spicy Shrimp Salad
- 2 Gypsy peppers
- ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup arugula, packed
- ½ small seedless watermelon
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- ¾-1 lb shrimp, small (26/30) peeled and deveined, approximately 6-8 shrimp per plate
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- ½ tsp shallot
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large pinch sea salt
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp coriander
- ¾ tsp salt
- large pinch white pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place Gypsy peppers on a parchment paper lined sheet tray. Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Turn peppers and roast them for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool then slice into thin strips and mix with cilantro and season with sea salt. Set aside.
- Combine the spice blend together in a medium bowl and mix the shrimp with this spice blend. If you happen to have a favorite spicy spice blend on hand, use that instead!
- Place a small saute pan on medium high heat and add about 3 tbsp of the 1/2 cup of olive oil, or enough to fully coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil starts to shimmer - but not smoke (if it does this, toss the oil and start over) - place as many shrimp in the pan as will fit in one layer. Watch them, as they will cook quickly. Once they begin to curl up slightly, turn them and cook for another 30 seconds. Place cooked shrimp on a plate with paper towel. Add additional oil to the pan as necessary. Once all of the shrimp are cooked, add a bit more oil and add garlic slices to the pan. Fry until golden - this will also happen quickly, so keep an eye on it. The garlic is done when it becomes fragrant and a golden color. Set aside on a paper towel.
- Combine the dressing ingredients with a fork or small whisk.
- To build salad: wash and dry arugula, divide onto 4 plates. Remove the rind from the watermelon and cut into 12 medium thick slices. Fan 3 slices onto each plate, right on top of the arugula. Top with a small mound of the gypsy pepper and cilantro combination. Divide shrimp onto each plate and then add the dressing, coating a bit of everything on the plate. Sprinkle with fried garlic slices.
The summertime heat has set in and my body is determined to eat only those food that leave me feeling light and cool. Unlike recipes that require the correct ratio of ingredients (baking, stews, etc), salads are a place to create, play with flavors and sometimes, just use up leftovers! Over the course of this summer I will share three of my favorite types of salads. The first is a remake of the Quintessential California Salad then we move on to a Grilled Salad and wrap up with a savory Fruit Salad. Recipes will of course be included, but don’t feel obligated to stick to them. When you do change it up a bit, come back and share what you did differently!
I admit to probably being the only person who talks seriously of her childhood salad memories but in retrospect, the way I experienced them helped me learn about flavor combinations. In my humble culinary opinion, my dad’s specialty has always been making salad. When he was in charge of making dinner at home, salads are what he did. And so of course, this is where those memories begin. Here is a quick breakdown of how he approached that task:
- Remove all leftovers from the fridge and place them on the kitchen counter
- Cut those leftovers and any fresh greens and produce into salad size chunks
- Throw everything into a large bowl, toss & serve the “everything but the kitchen sink” salad: TADA!
I continue to love the memories I have about pairing flavors together in this way and will regularly take a note from my dad’s playbook. Particularly when I am having a “I don’t feel like cooking” day (yes I have those too!), and an overwhelming amount of leftovers in the fridge. As an example, I’ll start with a layer of salad greens which these days include spicy arugula or green lettuce from the garden or whatever comes in my CSA box. This is followed by a generous helping of the spicy Thai noodles from weekend takeout and slow cooked beef or chicken from a midweek dinner. I top this with whatever produce I have laying around – spring onions, avocado (please don’t judge me!), radish, carrot, etc. Depending on the amount of sauce on the noodles or moistness of the beef, a bit of dressing might be in order. Keep it simple: citrus, a touch of hot spice and a small amount of neutral oil mixed with salt and pepper does the trick.
Green Goddess Dressing
Farro and Dressing
Combining flavors and food from various cultures is remarkably Californian and so I’m kicking off this salad series with a remake of the quintessential California-style Strawberry & Spinach Salad. Since this particular salad is way overdone, I find it to be unremarkably Californian AKA boring. I’m here to inject some life into it. My version starts where they all do: a mound of baby spinach. From there, I get a little wild. Nutty farro mixed with a creamy nut and herb dressing (akin to Green Goddess), rich juicy red cherries (so amazing this time of year), thin slices of red onion, topped with a spicy Gorgonzola Piccante and additional creamy green dressing. The distinct flavors of all the ingredients make me feel truly present as every bite is bold and unique, the whole grains make this feel like a complete meal and I am just so glad to be enjoying summer.
The California Salad
I hope you can make some of your own salad memories this summer!
Salad Series: The California Remake
- 4 large handfuls baby spinach
- 3/4 cup whole grain farro
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ - ¾ cup Gorgonzola Piccante, crumbled
- 30 each cherries, pitted by hand
- ½ c cashew
- 1/3 bunch dill, large stems removed
- ½ bunch cilantro, large stems removed
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/3 - ½ cup water
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- ¼ cup spinach
- 2 tsp salt, or to taste
- Soak cashews in a cup of water and set aside for 1 hour.
- Fill a large pot with water and a generous amount of salt. Cover and set over high heat until boiling. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, stir the farro in and cook "pasta style", so without a pot top, for approximately 30 minutes. This style of cooking grains allows you to test the texture of the grain so it is to your liking. 30 minutes will leave it slightly crunchy, a fantastic texture for this salad. Once cooked, strain and set aside.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients, except for half of the water, in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add additional water to obtain a texture you prefer. I left mine on the thicker side. Once the dressing is done, mix in about 2/3 with the cooked farro and set aside.
- Build your salad by plate, starting with a handful of spinach. Add a quarter of the farro and dressing combination on top of the bed of spinach, then add sliced red onion, cheese and cherries on top.
- Sprinkle a tbsp of dressing on top of the finished salad.