Dinner Together: Shrimp salad balances light, heavy


All this summer-like weather means the seasonal cravings for cool salads have started early – and that’s a good thing since we’re also trying to find ways to eat up the spring salad greens before they bolt.

The dish for this month’s Dinner Together has become a warm-weather favorite. The combination of grilled shrimp, white kidney beans (also called cannellini beans), tomatoes and shallots are easily tossed together after just a bit of chopping. The tangy tarragon vinaigrette is so simple it always makes me wonder why we bother with salad dressing from the grocery store at all.

The original recipe from Fine Cooking does not call for avocado, but it lends a nice creaminess to the salad, so we like to throw some on the top. Plus, it offers an extra dose of those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

This dish manages to be both light and hearty, simple but elegant.

Honestly, the tomatoes, shrimp and beans were a bit too heavy for the delicate spring greens from our garden. They are better paired with heartier leafy greens suggested in the original recipe, but the clean-plate club still prevailed.

We always serve this as a main-course salad, but it could easily be a smaller first course. It can be served without the shrimp for those who don’t eat it or if the rising cost of shrimp has scared you away from buying it.

Fresh tarragon can be tricky to find in local grocery stores, but it’s worth it. Don’t bother substituting dried in this dressing, because it is essential to the overall flavor. We’ve consistently found it with the other fresh herbs at Safeway and occasionally at area farmers markets.

Do not use sherry cooking wine as a substitute in the salad dressing. Champagne vinegar and white wine vinegar are fine substitutes.

Shrimp and Cannellini Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 (15- or 16-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium ripe tomato, cut into medium dice (about 1 cup)

1 large shallot, sliced thinly into rings (about 1/4 cup)

12 jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined

1 medium head red-leaf lettuce (or a lettuce mix), washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)

Avocado slices, to taste

In a medium bowl, mix the sherry vinegar with the mustard, tarragon, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in 4 tablespoons of the oil.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, tomato, and shallot. Add 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and stir gently to combine.

Toss the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and a few grinds pepper. Heat a grill pan over high heat and then cook the shrimp until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Toss the lettuce with half of the remaining vinaigrette, add more to taste. For individual servings, portion the lettuce among the serving plates. Spoon the beans on top of the greens and top each salad with two or three shrimp, depending on how many servings you’re making. To serve buffet style, arrange a layer of lettuce, the beans, and then the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 main course servings

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