Grilled Shrimp & Bok Choy [& some musings about food]

I love salads.  No, really.  I think they’re one of the most open-ended, adaptable, refreshing meals there is.  Between last week and this week I made two radically different but amazingly delicious salads, each introducing me to foodstuffs I had never tried before, each with a homemade dressing that was amazing.

The first salad is a Grilled Shrimp Salad with Corn and Avocado I found on epicurious, though the recipe was originally from the August 2006 issue of Bon Appétit.  It was fun to make and tasted so vibrant — it was like summer in a bowl and therefore the perfect thing to eat at the end of January.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  • The first thing you should know is that the dressing calls for truffle oil.  I had never used heard of truffle oil before, and it was listed as optional in the ingredients, so when I found it at the grocery store and it was $20 for 3.4oz I was tempted to leave it out — DON’T!  I wanted this salad to be as amazing as possible so I caved and purchased it, hoping that it would prove worth the extra money — it definitely was (I will discuss this more later)!

  • I enjoy capers so I tossed some in at the end.
  • I halved the entire recipe and still ended up with enough salad to last 4 meals.
  • My grocery store didn’t carry mâche, so after reading a bit about it online and looking at pictures, I went with a mix of Living Butter Lettuce and spinach.  The Living Butter Lettuce is the prettiest lettuce I’ve ever purchased from a grocery store (it’s “living” because it comes with the roots intact).

  • Because it’s winter and I live in an apartment building we don’t have a grill at our disposal.  So how to grill the onions, corn, and shrimp?  I used the broiler (about 8 minutes) and they turned out amazing.

I brought a tupperware of salad to work the next day for a friend to have and she loved it!  I would definitely make this one again.
The second salad was Seared Baby Bok Choy with Tofu and Shiitake from my Fine Cooking One-Pot Meals edition.  This one had a deep, rich, subtle (yet slightly kicky) flavor.
Between this and the fried rice, I’ve now used ginger twice (!!).  I’ve never particularly cared for its flavor, but I loved it in these two recipes, so I think I might be a convert.  The jalapeño did not make it nearly as hot as I’d thought it would, which is a good thing because I can’t handle much heat (of the Hispanic variety — Asian mustards, like wasabi, I can handle just fine), it just added an undercurrent of flavor to the sesame oil that took the salad to the next level.
This was also the first time I’d ever used bok choy and tofu.  I was pleasantly surprised on both accounts.  The bok choy was delicious both raw and cooked and the tofu (which is something I don’t always care for) was also good.  The shiitake had an excellent flavor but I love mushrooms in general (I could eat sautéed mushrooms anywhere anytime in anything).
This was a salad best eaten right after you make it, although I didn’t have enough left over to save anyway, it was so good!  I will definitely be making this one again.
I think one of the most interesting and wonderful things I noticed was the benefit of having all of these ingredients around all the time.  I know I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but again this week I found myself making a salad on the fly using the leftover ingredients from these recipes (today it was spinach, butter lettuce, chives, bell pepper, bacon, grated parmesan, and truffle oil, olive oil, sesame oil, salt, and pepper dressing — the combination of those oils smells heavenly, I literally took my bowl of salad around to various coworkers to ask them to smell it, it was so wonderful).  It’s not just their easy availability, but the fact that I know what they taste and smell like, what will go together well, that everything is so fresh.  It’s a very nice, healthy, good-feeling inducing side effect that I hadn’t planned on, but makes me very happy.
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