Take a vacation south of the border on your lunch break when you pack yourself this chopped jicama and shrimp salad. It is a feast for the eyes, with a rainbow of cheery colors and textures.
I've always had a thing for composed salads, where the ingredients are artfully laid out on top of the salad greens and then drizzled with dressing before serving — no tossing. The most famous of these composed salads is probably salad niçoise, but a lot of time chef's salads, taco salads, and antipasto salads are served composed as well.
I love them for many reasons: I love the fact that the salad ingredients are arranged like a painting — each component of salad is drizzled with flavorful dressing. And I also love the fact that when it comes time to eat the salad, the choice of what to put on your fork is totally up to you. I love choosing my next bite, and that each taste is different from the next — a play on textures and flavors. If I were to get philosophical about composed salads, I would say something like, "contrast breeds appreciation."
A lot of time the lettuce under it all is an afterthought, and usually wilted down by the time you get to it. That's not why I'm there; I'm there for the goodies drizzled with dressing. This week we're celebrating no-lettuce salads, so I say skip the layer of greens and just go for the goodies!
The base of today's salad is jicama. Hailing from Mexico, it naturally pairs well with Latin flavors, so we teamed it up with lime, cilantro, cumin, and a touch of chipotle chili. Start with peeled and diced jicama, and then surround it with shrimp, black beans, avocado, and grapefruit (see above philosophy on contrast) to create a composed entrée salad.
Jicama has a smooth, tan exterior and is the shape of a large turnip. You can find it in the unrefrigerated section of supermarkets, often near ginger and coconuts. Look for smooth skin without blemishes. Sometimes it is coated in wax or wrapped in plastic.
You can store jicama on your counter for several days, or in your fridge for longer storage. Peel away the thick, papery skin with a good vegetable peeler. The interior should be pure white. Dice the crisp interior, or cut into julienne strips for a salad. I also like to cut it into wider sticks for veggies and dip. Once you've cut into jicama, store it in the produce crisper drawer in a bag or wrapped in plastic.
Jicama Shrimp Salad
1 pound medium peeled cooked shrimp
1 large jicama, peeled and finely diced (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large grapefruit, peeled and segmented, and juice reserved (see Recipe Note)
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili, or to taste
Arrange shrimp, jicama, black beans, grapefruit segments, and avocado on a large platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and onion.
Combine the reserved grapefruit juice, lime, oil, honey, cumin, salt, and chipotle in a jar. Cover and shake to combine. Pour over the salad just before serving.
To segment grapefruit: Cut skin and pith away from the outside of the grapefruit. Working over a bowl to catch juices and segments, slide knife along the pith of the grapefruit down one side of a segment. When you get to the center, reverse the direction of the knife, prying the supreme from the other side of its pith. When all of the segments are cut free, squeeze the pith and pulp leftover and catch the juice in the work bowl.
(Image credits: Katie Webster)