I used to do a lot of traveling in the winter months- short escapes to warmer climates like anywhere in Florida or south of the border to Mexico. Coming from the Midwest, I was indeed a young snow bird of sorts. Sometimes I did it with the excuse of studying (i.e. taking intensive Spanish language courses in Merida, Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico; other times it was just a gift-to-self for studying so hard throughout a college quarter to places like Playa del Carmen along the Mayan Riviera in Mexico.
While I sadly haven’t been back to either places in a very long time, I still have fond and special memories of the food, the people and the experiences there. The fish, in particular was so fresh- coming straight off the Caribbean– that it was served as ceviche in restaurants just a short time after being caught. I remember once seeing two fisherman rolling an enormous shark down the street in a makeshift cart and when I asked where it came from, they sort of chuckled and responded something to the effect of, “Pues, por alli“, as they pointed to the sea behind us.
It’s a wonder I ever swam and snorkeled in those waters… Oh, to be young and blissful!
I play it a bit safer now, getting my seafood from the local grocery or my fish monger, although I have to admit I still long to return to those beaches, feel the warm sun on my back and eat the fish coming right out of those waters. For now, I’ll have to settle on bringing those same Caribbean/Mexican-inspired flavors home this winter. We could all use a little zest in life, couldn’t we?
All you have to do is start out with super fresh organic ingredients such as white onion, scallion, colored peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, lime juice plus the zest, and of course shrimp. Buy frozen cooked shrimp with the tail-on and other than chopping all the produce, this will be a breeze.
One fresh avocado is also a great addition, but don’t worry if you don’t have it. And don’t use a mushy avocado- I think it ruins the texture of the salad. It should look neat, not slimy, which avocado does when it’s not nice and firm.
Chop everything ahead of time. Once the shrimp is thawed, you don’t want it to sit out too long, so be ready for it. I’ll talk about how to deal with the shrimp in just a minute.
Clean the surface of a lime really well and zest the rind. It’s going to add so much freshness to this salad. Oops, I also forgot about the jalapeño, which is peeking out in the photo above. If you like a kick, be sure to add one. Just mince it up (i.e. cut in very small pieces) so that it’s not too biting.
First, make the simple dressing- it’s just olive oil, salt and lime zest. Set that aside.
Now take the shrimp out of the freezer if you haven’t thawed it in the refrigerator. You can put it in a colander and run cold water over it, or even soak in very cold water for a few minutes. That usually does the trick just fine. Just make sure they’re dried really well or your salad will be wet with water, and believe me you will not be happy with that. Oil + water = a not-so-great salad.
Take the tails off of the shrimp and discard or reserve to add to a homemade fish broth- those are a amazing, and a great way to use the whole shrimp.
Now add the diced vegetables to a large serving bowl where you will have enough room for everything, including all the shrimp. Plus, room to stir it around. (It’s not the same glass bowl I used to make the dressing, but it looks like it- just a smaller version).
Add more of the chopped, minced and cut fresh produce like the garlic and scallions and jalapeños.
Habaneros would be nice, too- you’d really feel like you brought Mexico home. But I didn’t have any.
Now add the fresh, cooked, tail-off, and very dry shrimp to the bowl.
This is why you should use a glass bowl. Just imagine what your guests will be saying: “wow”, “masha’allah”, “how did you do that?”, “you’re an amazing cook”…etc. A girl can daydream any time.
Now get to the cilantro. It smells amazing when it’s fresh and while you’re chopping it it’s even more amazing.
No wonder I day dream a lot.
It looks pretty here, but you still have to add the dressing.
And mix ever so gently so you don’t tear the shrimp.
Then add the avocado and mix again, this time even more gently so you don’t smash it up.
Now serve in small plates with tortilla chips on the side for scooping. You need strong ones to hold up the shrimp, so don’t skimp on those.
Around here everyone wants a bowl of this stuff, which is fine, too.
Bismillah and Buen Provecho!
Have you ever been to Mexico? What’s your favorite type of Mexican food? Take me away…
- 2 pounds cooked shrimp, tail on
- 1/2 cup chopped multi-color peppers, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño, minced (optional)
- 2 tablespoons white onion, diced
- 2 spring onions, diced
- 1 cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems
- 1 avocado, diced
- juice of 2 1/2 limes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- zest of one lime
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- tortilla chips
- Properly defrost the shrimp and remove the tails. Place in the refrigerator until ready to add to the salad or do this just after all the ingredients are chopped.
- Chop all of the fresh produce and cilantro and set aside.
- Make the dressing by squeezing the lime juice in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk vigorously. Add the lime zest, salt and black pepper.
- Chop the avocado and bring the shrimp out of the refrigerator if being chilled.
- To a large serving bowl, add all of the chopped vegetables. Place the shrimp on top, then the chopped cilantro. Add the dressing then mix the salad gently. Add the avocado and gently incorporate it into the salad.
- Serve on small plates or serving bowls with a side of fresh tortilla chips.