Shrimp is the best. It’s not the cheapest protein option, but it’s versatile and can be bought frozen for much less than fresh with minimal difference in flavor. We buy a big bag (1-2 lbs.) of it at Costco, Trader Joe’s, or whatever grocery store is nearby, and it usually lasts for several meals. The Whole Foods Frozen Shrimp bag boasts 41-50 mid-sized shrimp for a surprisingly un-Whole Foods-esque price, and if a serving is six shrimp, you can get about eight meals out of one bag. Make sure to buy raw shrimp so they’re not overcooked when you add them to a hot meal. Tough shrimp are no fun. Tender shrimp, on the other hand–even ones that were once frozen–are simply magical.
Shrimp and Green Lentil Salad | serves 2
12 raw, mid-size shrimp
1/2 cup uncooked green lentils
1 shallot or 1/4 red onion
1 yellow squash
2 roma or 1 beefsteak tomato
1/2 bunch green onions
1.5 tbsp capers
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar or white balsamic
1 small container plain Greek yogurt
1 bunch mint
1 bunch dill
Salt and pepper and chili flakes to taste
Shaved parmesan to garnish, if desired
1. A few hours before you plan to put together the salad, set out your shrimp to thaw and cook your green lentils until they’re “al dente,” a.k.a. not falling apart but not crunchy. You can find instructions for this elsewhere on the Internet. The Kitchn is a good resource.
2. When you’re ready to get down to business, peel your shrimp if necessary. (You should buy shrimp that’s already deveined, but unpeeled shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.) Give them a rinse once you’ve peeled them, and set them aside to continue thawing. The best way to quick-thaw shrimp, by the way, is by placing them in a bowl filled with cold or room temperature water. Never try to thaw seafood by heating it.
3. Make your vinegar dressing: in a small bowl or cup, combine the zest of one lemon (you can use the fine side of a cheese grater, or skip the zest if you can’t feasibly procure it), the juice of two lemons, the garlic (grated if possible, minced otherwise), the mustard, the vinegar, and a crank of pepper. Whisk until uniform in texture and appearance. Set aside.
4. Slice your squash in four slices lengthwise. Cut off the stem, cut it in half, and then take off a shallow slice from each curved end. Swipe on a little oil and grill it. If you don’t have a grill pan, get one because they’re ridiculously useful, or sauté it, diced into 1/2 inch pieces, in a frying pan until slightly browned. If you grilled it, grill until there are some marks on it but it’s not soggy yet, and dice it up. Stick it in the fridge to cool.
5. Using your grill pan (okay, fine, or your frying pan), grill up your peeled and washed shrimp. Crank some salt and pepper on them and turn once when they’re starting to look a little firm and pink but still have some grey streaks on them. Once turned, cook for another minute until they’re completely pink and opaque. Take them off and set them aside to cool.
Note: A good rule of thumb is to take them off a few moments before you feel like they’re ready, because they’ll continue cooking after they’ve been removed from the heat. Cut into one once they’re off to make sure they’re cooked through, if necessary.
6. Dice your shallot or red onion, chop your green onion (white and green parts, discard the roots), and dice the tomatoes.
7. In a large mixing bowl, dump your lentils, veggies, shrimp, capers, and vinegar dressing, and toss to combine. If you’re not planning to eat right away, stop here and refrigerate the salad until mealtime. It can keep for a day or so, but keep in mind that you have shrimp in there and also veggies that will get soggy. You could definitely prepare all the ingredients separately and combine them when you’re ready to eat. We’ve done that and it’s an efficient dinner solution for busy weeks.
8. Make the yogurt dressing: combine the yogurt, a generous handful each of mint and dill, juice from one lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the herbs. If the dressing is too thick, thin it out with a small stream of olive oil, or more lemon juice. We go for the latter since oil isn’t entirely necessary or healthy.
Note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can mince them together–pile up the mint and dill leaves in one tightly-wrapped cylinder and use tight slicing motions both from side to side and up and down until the herbs are a uniform pile of confetti, and then mix it in. An immersion blender is a great investment, though, especially if you make salads often.