I’d love to say Louisiana food is all about contradictions, like balancing sweet and spicy, or fat with lean, or excess with moderation. That, though, would be one big fat lie. Louisiana food is all about excess. More is more down here in the Sticky Hot South and generally that does not mean more servings of something like a Green Bean Sesame Salad.
However, before you tut-tut, the key to survival here (literally) is understanding this and forcing moderation on yourself. In moderation, of course. When you go out to eat, even though the breaded oysters with cream and crabmeat topping look great – you probably can’t get that as a starter and the stuffed flounder with a creole béarnaise as a main. I mean you CAN but as my former brother-in-law once told my husband, ‘The food down here will kill you. No, I’m serious. It. Will. Kill. You.”
So what we do is try to find interesting and delicious alternatives. Maybe some grilled fish every now and then. Perhaps a dessert of simple berries. Skinny margaritas. You know, the usual.
And that is what I had in mind when I adapted a simple Ottolenghi salad to pair with Barbecue Shrimp (the recipe for which I will post another day but for now know this: 3 lb of shrimp. 5 sticks of butter. There. I said it).
I enjoy salads most when they are hearty enough to be tossed with dressing in well in advance of dining. That means nothing with lettuce – it needs to more substantial, tougher, able to stand up to the hot sauce and humidity and difficult-to-decipher accents. So even though you wouldn’t necessarily associate Ottolenghi with these characteristics, their salads are pretty solid so it’s a good start.
This started out as their Spring salad but since it wasn’t spring and I didn’t have the ingredients I made several changes. Enough to rename it even. It provided exactly what we needed. An antidote to the fat and a way to feel just slightly better about ourselves as we pulled off pieces of warm spongy french bread, sopped up the spiced butter mixture pooling beneath the large Gulf shrimp and let it all melt in our mouths.
- 300 grams of asparagus trimmed and sliced at an angle to 1" pieces
- 200 grams green beans (of different colors if possible)
- 200 grams sugar snap peas
- 50 grams baby spinach
- 1 shallot, sliced fine
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the asparagus, green beans and sugar snap peas for 30 seconds. Strain them then immediately dunk them into an ice bath to stop them cooking. Strain again then place them (removing pieces of ice) into a clean towel lined bowl to dry. Set aside.
- Combine the garlic, red chili, sesame oil, olive oil, lemon juice and brown sugar in a jar with a lid. Shake hard for 45 seconds. Set aside.
- In a large salad bowl combine spinach and cooked and now cooled veggies. Give the dressing another shake and drizzle over entire salad. Top with toasted sesame seeds, salt and pepper.
- Serve whenever.