Satisfying Salads

Lame as it may sound, Graeme and I both get a little bit over-excited about big, hearty salads–the kind that come in huge bowls and are a meal unto themselves. As the weather warms up, especially, big meal salads start showing up in our dinner plans more and more frequently, especially once we can make them using greens from our garden. I think my love of an enormous salad comes from my more general love of dishes that allow me to combine a million of my favourite ingredients on one plate; I go through over-the-top sandwich phases for the same reason. Also, a big salad begs for some kind of special bread-y accompaniment, which means that these sorts of dinners usually give me an excuse to either pick up something fancy at the neighbourhood bakery, or to experiment with some baking myself.

The other evening I decided to throw together one such giant salad, using lettuce, asparagus, avocado, goat cheese, grapes, shrimp and other bits that were hanging out in the vicinity of our fridge in a vaguely Asian-style gingery dressing. I whipped up some of these biscuits  to accompany the meal; they come together shockingly easily and have never failed me. It all tasted fresh and delicious. This was a really satisfying meal even after a long afternoon of slaving away in the garden, getting it all set up for the season. I share the recipe with you as an example of the kind of thing we often make at this time of year, but obviously it is barely a “recipe” and should not require one. For me, big salads are generally about combining lots of different textures and tastes to make each forkful an exciting prospect, and about including enough protein/fat so that they will be good and filling as main dishes. And I would love to hear from you, too, regarding the sorts of big meal salads you like to make; we are always on the lookout for ideas and for more creative possibilities!

Gingery Shrimp and Asparagus Salad
Serves 2.

Ingredients:
Dressing: [Note: this was too much dressing for 2 people.]
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
1/8 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

Salad:
Big bunch of mixed salad greens
50g nice crumbly goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter
12 shrimp (we used frozen precooked, but this would be even nicer with some fresh shrimp)
8 or so asparagus stalks, chopped into 1″ or so pieces
A dozen or so green grapes halved
A handful of slivered almonds

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Season and adjust the dressing to your liking.

Divide the greens, avocado, onion and goat cheese between two large plates or bowls. Melt 1 tbsp butter on medium-high heat in a frying pan/skillet and when it’s nice and bubbly, throw in your asparagus. Saute for a couple of minutes, then throw in the slivered almonds, to toast them. After about 5 minutes total the asparagus should be getting tender and the almonds should smell amazing; now throw in the shrimp (which, if you have thawed them from frozen, you have patted as dry as possible), and the grapes, season the whole thing and saute for one more minute or two, just until the shrimp get nice and browned and crispy. Divide the asparagus/almond/shrimp/grape mixture evenly on the two plates, pour some of the dressing on each, and serve.

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