It's March and winter is still among us with its generous snowfall. Daylight is getting longer and most of us are ready to hang our winter coat in the closet for hibernation. The local produce aisle is on its last legs—winter root vegetables leaves much to be desired (e.g., gummy-textured parsnips, beets with black spots, waxy-centered rutabaga, and carrots that lack flavor). Lately I have been shifting my emphasis to seafood salads. Plump shrimp, tasty lobster, and delicate crab make a fine base. I did not stray too far from the idea of a classic mayonnaise-based seafood salad and this are my immediate findings. The following are tips that made my seafood salads a success:
Texture is important: Adding contrast to soft-textured seafood with chopped celery cubes, diced radishes, shaved fennel, tart apples, and juice asian pears make an enjoyable, vibrant eating experience.
Bright flavor punch: To keep it exciting on the pallet, add herbs. Toss a small amount of freshly chopped herbs into your seafood salad mixture—parsley, anise-y tarragon, seductively tender chervil or sharp tasting chive. Also, green or black olives or capers add a welcome punch.
Fluffy greens: I recommend serving your seafood salad over tender Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves, crunchy romaine or peppery watercress.
Making it all work on a budget: Lobster and shrimp signify a meal for a rather special occasion. A smart way to make this work is by adding cooked macaroni pasta into the mix. I used brown rice and quinoa pasta since I do better with less gluten in my diet. A ratio of 1/4 pasta to the other ingredients worked well in my seafood salad mixes.
The following recipe makes 4 portions.
4 cups cold water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 bay leaves
1 lemon, cut into half
8 grindings black pepper from the mill
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 pound frozen small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1) In a pot combine water, vinegar, lemon, black pepper, salt, and bay leaf and bring to boil.
2) In a strainer rinse shrimp with warm water, then put into heatproof bowl or pot.
3) Pour boiling liquid over the shrimp and let steep for 15 minutes. Depending on their size, cut shrimp into mouth-sized pieces.
Chef's Note: My preferred shrimp size for seafood salad is 16-20 pieces to the pound.
(recipe makes about 3/4 cup mayo-like sauce)
1/2 cup warm water
2 lemon, juiced
4 ounces soft tofu
1 tablespoon smooth mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil such as grape seed, avocado or sunflower oil
1) Combine water, lemon juice, tofu, mustard and salt in kitchen blender and process for 1 minute.
2) Add oil slowly through the lid opening. The process should take 1 minute. At this point the mixture should have a thick, mayonnaise-like texture.
3 slices nitrite-free bacon
1 small head Boston or Bibb lettuce, cleaned and torn into mouth-sized pieces
1 stalk celery, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
7 ounces shrimp (see recipe above)
3/4 cup tofunaise (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons chives, snipped with scissors into 1/2-inch long pieces
1) Cook bacon in a skillet on medium heat for 4 minutes or until crispy, then transfer to a kitchen paper towel. Dry off excess fat with paper towel, then chop into 1-inch pieces.
2) Arrange lettuce leaves on the bottom of four plates.
2) In a bowl, combine bacon, shrimp, tofunaise, celery, and chives and mix with a rubber spatula. Transfer shrimp mixture over the lettuce-lined plates.
Chef's Tip: Sprinkle Old Bay spice over the shrimp salad. You'll find it in just about any supermarket.