Searching for lost recipes, reviving recipes that people have forgotten, or putting a new spin on old classic dishes, my work puts me in touch with peoples’ food memories every day. My own food memories don’t surface as often…but put me in front of a plate of fresh shrimp on a sunny summer day and WHAM! I’m there.
There were a lot of shrimp boats in the Texas Gulf when I was a kid. Maybe even more when my mom was little and her dad owned a piece of Galveston Island. Mom loved the heat, the sun on the beach and the Texas Gulf shrimp she ate there. But transplanted to the Midwest in the ‘60s, we had to settle, shrimp-wise, at least a little bit.
When mom did find fresh shrimp up to her standard, her favorite way to serve it was in this cool and pretty salad. Mom kept it simple, letting the sweet flavor of the firm, fresh shrimp dominate, adorned just enough with the crunch of celery & onion, and the color of bright red pimiento pepper.
I’ve added a full tablespoon of flavor-packed preserved Meyer lemon, a versatile condiment you make by steeping lemons—skin and all, in salt, lemon juice and a little oil. In my husband’s opinion, it makes this shrimp salad better than any other.
Make your preserved lemon right away (it takes a few weeks to cure) so when the summer heat fully flares, you’ll be salad-ready. I like to serve shrimp salad in lettuce cups, vintage tea-room style, but it goes very well on toast or fresh croissants, with avocado. A nice, light lunch.
Simply the Best Shrimp Salad
Makes 4 servings
- ¼ cup good-quality mayonnaise (Duke’s or Hellmann’s)
- 1 Tbsp finely minced preserved Meyer lemon (recipe follows)
- 1 tsp finely snipped fresh dill
- 1 pound cooked large shrimp, each cut into two of three pieces
- 3 celery ribs, each cut lengthwise into three strips, and then diced fine
- ¼ cup finely-chopped sweet onion
- 2 Tbsp finely-chopped pimiento pepper
- Salt and finely-ground pepper
- 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
- 1 avocado
1. In a large bowl, whisk mayonnaise with preserved lemon and dill.
2. Stir in pieced shrimp, diced celery & onion. Carefully fold in the pimiento. Add salt and a finely-ground black pepper to suit your taste. Chill. Serve in lettuce cups with sliced avocado.
Preserved Meyer Lemon
- 12 small organic Meyer lemons (four to cut into quarters and preserve; four you will squeeze the juice out of and use in the recipe on the first day; and the last four you will squeeze and use in the recipe after three days)
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 dried red chile
- 8 to 10 whole black peppercorns
- Olive oil
1. Gently wash eight of the lemons. Pat them dry with a towel. Cut four of the lemons into quarters (or eighths, if you like). Juice the other four lemons, throw the skins away, and set juice aside.
2. Toss the cut lemons with kosher salt. Pack them into a sterilized pint jar, sprinkling the bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and chili pepper between layers.
3. Pour the lemon juice over the salted lemons and spices. (It should fill about halfway–Don’t worry: After three days you’ll add more lemon juice.)
4. Cap the jar. Shake it up . Set aside in a warm place.
5. Shake the jar once a day for three days.
6. Wash the remaining four lemons. Juice them. Pour this juice into the pint jar to completely fill any airspace left in the jar. Top with a little bit of olive oil. Close the jar.
7. Place the lemons in a dark, cool spot and allow to cure for at least three weeks, or up to a month before using.
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