You will not regret making this salad. Before you even go to the “trouble,” understand that it is nothing more than 3 simple components: fresh cooked shrimp, chopped veggies and a really nice dressing. C’est tout, OK? Do not glaze over at the list of ingredients, because this is easy and really adaptable. Plus, it’s just damned delicious and I want you to experience it. With me?
I demo-ed this dish on May 2 at the Red Stick Farmers Market. It springs from a recipe in my new book on Louisiana foodways, Hungry for Louisiana. In the book, I use Louisiana crawfish tails, but for the market, I developed a version using fresh Louisiana shrimp — specifically the shrimp sold by market vendor Lance Nacio of Anna Marie Seafood, a fascinating family shrimping outfit that has helped pioneer sustainable fishing practices in the Gulf. I try to hit up Lance’s booth on Thursday mornings at the mid-week market on the grounds of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
It was so much fun marrying Lance’s tender shrimp with fresh produce from other market vendors, including sweet onions, garlic, bell peppers, arugula, basil and fresh fennel from Bud Benton (below) of Mon Jardin Farms. I even found a lovely specialty honey at the market that has fennel notes called “Egret’s Nest” by Bocage Bee & Honey. It adds just the right amount of sweetness and depth to the vinaigrette.
Whether you live here in South Louisiana, or around the country, you’ll love this recipe for its variation in flavor and texture. In each bite, you get succulent shrimp, crunchy vegetables and a honey-lemon dressing that has the added punch of celery seed.
Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Tangy Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 pound peeled and deveined fresh Gulf shrimp (medium count)
Salt* and ground black pepper
1 cup chopped yellow pepper (about 1 whole pepper)
1 cup chopped red pepper (about 1 whole pepper)
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
½ cup canned hearts of palm slices, drained
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
4 cups salad greens
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
12 basil leaves, rolled and cut into ribbons (chiffonade)
4–6 lemon wedges
Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat, and sauté onion until translucent about 5 minutes. Add shrimp, and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until meat is just pink. Remove from heat immediately and season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine yellow and red bell peppers, celery, fennel, and hearts of palm. Set aside.
Prepare dressing by adding vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, honey, and celery seed to a food processor. Combine, and while blade is turning, slowly add oil. Season to taste with salt and ground pepper.
Drain off any liquid that has accumulated in shrimp and add them to veggies. Pour in ½ cup of dressing and toss well to combine. Reserve remainder of dressing for another use. Let the salad marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Serve over cold greens and garnish with sliced tomatoes, basil ribbons, and lemon wedges.