When I was kid, the only thing my mom trusted me with in the kitchen was the salad. So every night, right before dinner was to be served, I was asked to come in the kitchen and make this bland, boring salad. I’d reluctantly tear up the lettuce, cut a tomato and cucumber and it’d be done—it was the easiest chore I had to do, but that memory has resulted in me being a non-salad eater. People love salads—me? Not so much. When I go to a restaurant, the salad section is usually not even an option for me, unless it’s a caprese salad, which isn’t really even a salad, it’s more like a cold appetizer. So I’m scarred for life—no salads for me…until…my trip to Raleigh, NC last month where I tried this incredible salad at Firebirds.
It’s not a super-duper gourmet spot that you’d see in Bon Appetit—just a little restaurant nestled in the suburbs and this place served up one of the best salads of my life. To me this salad worked so well because it treated the lettuce like a second-class citizen. Lettuce was used just as a delivery service for the other cool stuff in the salad, like the strawberries, feta cheese and sweet and spicy pecans. The texture was crunchy from the pecans, soft from the cheese and smokey and crunchy from the grilled shrimp. The experience didn’t totally transform me into a full on salad eater—just a Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry salad eater.
Grilled Shrimp & Strawberry Salad
Inspired by Grilled Shrimp & Strawberry Salad at Firebirds
2 1/2 cups of lettuce (romaine and spring mix)
1 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries
1/2 cup of candied or spicy pecans, chopped
1 lb. of shrimp (10-15 count), peeled and deveined with tail on
3/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
Simple Balsamic Dressing
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
3/4 olive oil
You’ll need a few skewers. To avoid them catching on fire when they’re over the grill, soak them in a bit of water for a few minutes. Thread the shrimp onto the skewer, putting 3-4 shrimp per skewer. Place over grill and cook for 2 minutes on each side.
As they’re on the grill, throw the lettuce, strawberries, feta and pecans all together.
Beat the vinegar with salt and pepper until it dissolves. Then beat in the olive oil by droplets, whisking constantly. This should create a bit of emulsification, thickening the dressing.
Toss the salad with the dressing, ensuring that it’s all worked in. Take the shrimp off their skewers and place along side the salad. Voila!