Greek Salad with Shrimp   Recipe
Greek Salad with Shrimp

By Wolfgang Puck

Many people tell me that I look like I'm having a lot of fun when I'm cooking. It's true. To me, the kitchen is my playground. Coming up with new recipes that taste delicious and look beautiful is one of the activities I enjoy the most.

Many chefs invent new recipes by playing around with the classics. I like to take a dish with which everyone is familiar and look for ways to modify it for today's tastes. I might try to change how the dish is served, taking an appetizer or a side dish, for example, and transforming it into a main course. Or I'll take a rustic recipe and make it more elegant.

Those are the strategies I used, for example, to come up with one of the most popular lunchtime salads at my Spago restaurants: the Greek Salad with Shrimp.

The starting point was the well-known salata horiatiki, or "country salad," offered as an appetizer or side dish on the menus of Greek restaurants. The mixture of chopped lettuce, cucumber, red onion, tomato, and bell pepper is garnished with Kalamata olives and chunks of feta cheese, then tossed with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar.

I decided to refine that standard. I began by taking the sharpest-tasting ingredient in the salad, the raw onion, and turning it into something just as flavorful but with a sweeter, milder character by caramelizing the onion.

Next, I turned to the lettuce. Most restaurants just use iceberg, which is all crunch without much character. Instead, I substituted sweet yet crispy hearts of Romaine, plus the colorful, flavorful mixed baby lettuces you can find bagged and ready to use in supermarkets. And in place of regular tomato, I decided to substitute sweet little cherry tomatoes along with tiny golden pear-shaped tomatoes, contributing still more color and flavor.

Another twist came with the feta cheese. In place of chunks, I decided to grate the cheese, blending it into the salad for an almost creamy effect. And I added a little freshly grated Parmesan, for its own nutty flavor.

Of course, the biggest change I made was to turn the salad into a main course by topping it with plump shrimp tossed with a garlicky yogurt dressing inspired by the Greek dip tzatziki. If you don't want to bother with buying and cooking the jumbo shrimp I call for, you could substitute an equal weight of precooked baby bay shrimp. Or use leftover grilled salmon or other seafood, or cold slices of cooked lamb tenderloin or steak.

Try preparing this salad for a weekend lunch or even a warm-weather dinner. You'll be surprised how delicious the results can be when you've just been playing in the kitchen.

Greek Salad with Shrimp Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

Caramelized Onion

1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 3/4-inch dice

1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Shrimp Dressing

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely diced peeled and seeded cucumber

1 tablespoon minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Pinch cayenne pepper

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Salad

16 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half horizontally

2 tablespoons safflower oil

1 head romaine lettuce hearts, torn into bite-sized pieces

4 cups mixed baby lettuces, washed and dried

1/2 each red and yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch squares

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, quartered, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 cup yellow pear and red cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1/2 pound good-quality feta cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup Greek Salad Dressing (recipe follows)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup shelled pine nuts, toasted in a small dry skillet over low heat until golden, 3 to 4 minutes

Fresh dill sprigs, for garnish

Greek Salad Dressing (Makes 2-1/2 cups)

1 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of sugar, or to taste

Recipe Preparation

First, prepare the Caramelized Onion:

In a medium skillet or saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cook 1 minute longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cool, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Next, prepare the Shrimp Dressing:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, cucumber, onion, dill, and garlic. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

To prepare the salad, first cook the shrimp. In a large saute pan, heat the safflower oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute, stirring continuously, until they turn pink and are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a dish and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the romaine, baby lettuces, Caramelized Onions, bell peppers, olives, cucumber, and tomatoes. Using the large holes on a hand-held grater, grate in the feta. Add the Parmesan and the 1 cup Greek Salad Dressing. Toss until well coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide and mound onto 4 chilled salad plates.

In a medium bowl, toss together the shrimp and Shrimp Dressing. Arrange 8 shrimp halves on each salad mound. Top with pine nuts and garnish with dill sprigs.

Preparing the Greek Salad Dressing:

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic, dill, parsley, thyme, salt, and white pepper.

Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the oil to form a smooth emulsion. Season to taste with sugar.

Refrigerate in a covered container. Whisk again before use.

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Recipes: "Greek Salad with Shrimp "

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