With its long Gulf Coast, the cuisine of Veracruz, Mexico, has a bounty of seafood. In this salad, a modern approach to the use of vanilla beans and arbol chili peppers enhances the delicately sweet flavor of shrimp and the tartness of the pineapple.
Make Ahead: You will make more vinaigrette than you need for this recipe. It needs to rest for 2 hours before using. It can be assembled and refrigerated in a tight-fitting container for up to 1 week. Stir before using.
- For the vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1/2 (2- or 3-inch length) vanilla bean, cut into very thin strips
- 1 arbol chili pepper (or more, as desired), stemmed and cut crosswise into thin slices (reserve the seeds)
- 1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
- For the salad
- 1/3 pineapple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- Safflower or corn oil, for the pan
- 1 pound large or extra-large peeled and deveined raw shrimp
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon safflower or corn oil
- 11 to 12 ounces mixed spring salad greens (or your choice of mixed baby lettuces), rinsed and dried
- 1 1/2 small red onion, cut into very thin slices
For the vinaigrette: Heat the olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat for a minute or two, until it is hot but not smoking. Add the garlic, vanilla bean and chili pepper, including the seeds. Cook for 10 to 15 seconds, stirring constantly. (Be careful not to burn those ingredients, as they have all nice intense flavors, but if burnt they will taste very bitter.) Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or a mixing bowl.
Add the safflower or corn oil, vinegar, allspice, salt and sugar. If using a blender, remove the center knob of the lid and place a dish towel over the opening; this will help allow steam to escape and keep the lid from blowing off. Or use an immersion blender for the mixture in the bowl. Puree until smooth; taste and add salt and/or sugar as needed, then transfer to an airtight container. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours before using (to allow the flavors to meld). At this point, the vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
For the salad: Heat a medium grill pan or nonstick skillet over medium-heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom, then add the pineapple slices in a single layer. Cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until they are slightly browned. Remove from the heat. When they are cool enough to handle, cut in half to make half-moons, discard the cores, then cut into wedges (with the grain).
Rinse the shrimp and drain well. Right before serving, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the butter and oil in a medium saute pan over high heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side; you may need to cook the shrimp in two batches so they don't overlap. (Alternatively, you can brush them well with a little oil and grill over medium heat.) The shrimp should have plumped up and changed color on both sides, but be careful not to overcook them.
To assemble: Place the greens in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with one-quarter of the vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly. Divide the dressed greens among individual plates.
Place equal amounts of shrimp on each portion of greens, a few tablespoons of the pineapple pieces and some of the onion. Drizzle a little of the remaining vinaigrette on each portion before serving.
Recipe adapted from Patricia Jinich, chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute.
Tested by Monica Bhide.
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