Salad experiments - Vietnamese-inspired grilled shrimp and pineapple salad with fresh herbs
I enjoy watching cooking shows. They’re entertaining and they provide new ideas for ingredients and technique as well as recipe inspiration. (See my recent post on current favorites for cooking inspiration and decent recipes.) They also often involve travel, which is a bonus! Steven Raichlen has had many cooking shows on public television and his resume is quite impressive: he’s published 31 books, won awards for his food writing, and has lectured on barbecue at colleges and institutions around the world.
An episode of Mr. Raichlen’s “Barbecue Bible” recently aired and featured a Shrimp And Pineapple Salad With Vietnamese Flavors. I like shrimp, pineapple, and Vietnamese food, so this caught my attention. What really stood out is that you caramelize the pineapple on the grill! This is accomplished by dredging pineapple rings and sugar and then putting them on a hot grill. I knew that the caramelized pineapple would be tasty in this salad, and it was a tip I could use with other recipes down the road.
Recipes are like a yoga class: take what you want, leave out what you don’t. In that spirit, I made a few changes to this recipe (and came up with a couple I would do next time):
Greens: This salad doesn’t actually have any salad greens or ruffage. Instead, it uses herbs as the greens (cilantro, basil, mint). I wanted a salad with greens, so I used thinly sliced Savoy cabbage. This variety of cabbage has a wrinkly texture, which is great for absorbing salad dressing and it’s sweeter and less bitter than other varieties. You can read more about the Savoy cabbage (and other varieties) and find a photo of it here.
Pineapple: If you don’t live in Hawaii or Vietnam, finding ripe pineapples is challenging. Plus, they can be kind of pricey and difficult to slice into rings without a special kitchen tool. I prefer to use pineapple rings since you can buy them ahead of time and store them in your pantry. On top of that, they are already in the shape required for this recipe: rings! No tools necessary! And you can use the pineapple juice the rings come in to make something else, for instance, a pineapple shrub with sage and honey. (Note on the shrub: while this recipe calls for LaCroix flavored sparkling water, I use San Pellegrino.)
Fried garlic and shallots: This recipe calls for making fried shallots and garlic yourself, which I did when I made this the first time. However, fried shallots are readily available at Asian markets and markets that carry Asian food. If you can find a place that sells fried shallots, they probably sell fresh garlic too. In sum, save yourself time and effort by buying fried garlic and shallots.
Jalapeño slices: I’m not a fan of raw jalapeño. Instead, I prefer it pickled, cooked with other ingredients, or added into hot pho. Raw jalapeños are overpowering, too hot, and unpleasant. So, I skipped these chilis. While I love spicy food and chilis, I didn’t want to overwhelm the delicate flavors of the herbs or the taste of the shrimp or pineapple.
Happy cooking and enjoy your salad-making adventures!
Note: if you’re looking to make a salad that features goat cheese, check out my guide on how to uplevel Costco goat cheese with infused lavender or dates.