Spring is here, and even though I’m in South Florida, I feel the change. Not so much in the temperature (we only turned on the heat for a few days this winter), but from what I see around me in the tropical flowers and fruits. Our mango and starfruit trees are full of miniature-sized versions of fruit that will ripen in the summer. The air is warm, but not unbearably humid like South Florida summers can be. The produce isles at the grocery store are stocked with spring favorites: asparagus, radishes and Brussels sprouts.
It’s funny how infectious the excitement for spring can be. I see it in my Facebook feed; all of the northern folks clamoring for some sunny rays after yet another snowstorm. In tribute to spring, I created this asparagus salad with shrimp and grapefruit with citrus vinaigrette. It’s fresh and light, with the perfect balance of subtle sweetness, acid and crunch.
I’m not sure what I love more about this salad. Is it the taste or the beautiful mix of colors on the plate? Pink grapefruit, red-rimmed radishes, purple baby lettuce, bright green asparagus and pink Key West shrimp vie for attention both in appearance and texture. Enjoy it with a cold glass of homebrewed iced tea for the perfect lunch to celebrate spring with friends or loved ones.
I have to give a special mention to the shrimp I used in this recipe. They hail from my hometown, Key West. It’s hard to find Key West pink shrimp—even in Miami. These wild shrimp are sweet and tender and usually more abundant in winter months. If you see them in the store or on a restaurant menu, be sure to try them out.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for asparagus salad with shrimp and grapefruit as much as we did! Happy spring from Love and Duck Fat!
More refreshing salads:
Yield: 2 servings
Note: recipe calls for 6 shrimp per serving (photo shows 3).
Place the shrimp on a paper towel to dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over high heat, and add the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan. When the butter foams; add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the shrimp on one side for 1-2 minutes, and then flip to the other side for another 1-2 minutes, until they begin to curl and the centers become opaque. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside to cool.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Set aside a bowl of ice water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and immediately plunge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
Carefully remove the outer skin from the grapefruit with a knife. Cut out the grapefruit segments by cutting in-between the membranes. Once the segments are removed, set them aside. Squeeze the juice from the outer skin and the remaining membrane into a bowl. You should have about 4 tablespoons of grapefruit juice.
Add about ½ teaspoon of salt and fresh pepper to the grapefruit juice. Whisk in remaining olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
Arrange the salad mix, radishes, sliced onion, grapefruit segments and asparagus on a plate. Top with the shrimp. Spoon the citrus vinaigrette on top.
There was a restaurant in Salem, Massachusetts that served halibut with sherry cream sauce and I still crave it fifteen years later. They served a perfectly pan-seared filet of halibut perched on top of a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with asparagus. The best part was the intensely-flavored sherry cream sauce. Fantastic paired with any fish or seafood; this sauce is incredibly tasty.
This is the kind of sauce that can be difficult to create at home because the secret is in the stock. In the restaurant, they had an ample supply of shrimp and lobster shells, along with celery tops, herbs and onion skins available. Boiled for an afternoon, the stock was then strained and reduced with sherry and lots of cream. The result was a heady jolt of fresh seafood flavor, along with the flavors of celery and herbs mingling with sweet sherry.
Home chefs usually don’t go to all that trouble. Who has the time? With a baby at home, I sure don’t!
With a little creativity, I managed to make a pretty close approximation of the dish with easy-to-find ingredients. It didn’t take me all day and everyone loved it. I substituted a slab of roasted cauliflower for the mashed potatoes. It’s a fun way to serve this vegetable, and a great substitute for buttery mashed potatoes.
Do you have a favorite restaurant dish you would love to make at home? Please share in the comments!
Yield: 4 servings
Heat a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Melt the butter and add the shallots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
Deglaze the pan with the stock and sherry. Add the tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook on low heat until the mixture is reduced, about 10 minutes.
Add the heavy cream and cook on low heat for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pat the halibut fillets dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Add olive oil in a skillet until shimmering. Add the halibut and cook on medium high heat until brown on the bottom, about five minutes. Flip the fillets and add the butter to the pan. Cook 2 minutes longer, tilting the pan and spooning the butter over the top of the fillets. Transfer fillets to a plate.
I’m fortunate enough to live very close to one of Miami’s best seafood markets, Casablanca Sea Food. Every day, they have a variety of fresh caught, local fish and shrimp brought from small fishing boats. Located on the Miami River, they have a restaurant too, if you feel like stopping by. I am a regular there, picking up some of my favorites: yellowtail snapper, hogfish, stone crabs and octopus. I recently began eating corvina, also known as white sea bass. It’s a plentiful fish in this area, with a light, white meat that is perfect for ceviche. I can get a pound for under $10.00, which makes me wonder why I don’t make this ceviche recipe with cherry tomato and white fish more often!
Ceviche is one of those dishes you can adapt easily to fit your tastes. I like to make it with fresh avocado, crunchy corn or cherry tomatoes. You can use red, yellow or a combination of colorful tomatoes. However you make this recipe, it will be a hit. It’s incredibly easy to do and tastes as good as any expensive restaurant ceviche. If you don’t know already, the acidity in the lime juice cooks the fish. As soon as the fish touches the juice, you will see the color change to an opaque white. After an hour or so, the outside of the fish pieces are entirely white and it’s time to eat. Serve as an elegant appetizer in small glasses or tasting spoons — or if you are like me, grab a big bowl and dig in.
Combine all of the ingredients in a glass or ceramic dish. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Stir again; making sure the fish is in contact with the lime juice. Chill for another 30 minutes, up to several hours. Taste and season again with salt if needed. Spoon into martini glasses or serving spoons to serve as an appetizer.
This recipe for the best ever tuna tomato melt was adapted from a dish served in a restaurant called Fiddlers in South Florida. The restaurant no longer exists, but my fond memories of eating there as a kid do. My mom and I would always order their “tuna tomato crisp.” It was a massive beefsteak tomato sliced open, piled with tuna salad and topped with lots of melted cheddar. Over the years, I haven’t found a tuna tomato melt that compares, so I created my own version so I could enjoy it at home.
What makes this special is the way the tomato is sliced open. It’s easy to do, doesn’t wobble around and cooks very fast. I usually make this in a medium-large ripe tomato, but you can make this really fun by choosing small tomatoes or even cherry tomatoes. Top with lots of melted cheese, blast in a hot oven and everyone will love them. The best part is you don’t need to spend time coring and stuffing the tomato. Just split it open like a flower and pile the tuna on top.
This recipe starts with really good tuna salad. It has lots of crunchy veggies and is light on the mayonnaise. Make your tuna however you prefer, but just try it this way once. You may thank me. You can serve the tomato on top of your favorite salad mix or baby spinach. Dress it very lightly or not at all. There is so much flavor in this recipe, you don’t need a lot of dressing. I could eat this every day. It’s healthy and really, really yum.
Yield: 2 servings
This recipe makes a little extra tuna salad.
Heat oven or toaster oven to broil.
Drain the tuna and add to a small bowl. Using a fork, flake the tuna. Mix in the onion, celery, pickle (or relish or capers), mayonnaise, mustard and parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Cut out the stem from the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in slices, without cutting through the bottom. Press your hand on the top of the tomato to fan out the slices. Pack the tuna salad into the tomatoes and arrange on a foil covered sheet pan. Top each with 1-2 slices of cheese, depending on how indulgent you are feeling.
Pop the stuffed tomatoes into the oven, close to the top heat and keep your eye on them. The goal is to just melt the cheese and get a little brown crust. This should take about 5-8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place the tomatoes on top of your dressed salad greens.
Octopus is delicious. If the only octopus you’ve had is the kind sitting on a ball of rice, you need to try it again. Try it grilled Mediterranean style or stewed, like in this Spanish style octopus stew inspired by a dish I had on Arrecife, one of the Spanish Canary islands. Cooked this way, octopus loses its toughness and becomes delicate and tender. Paired with potatoes, mushrooms, and lots of paprika, this is one of those rich and satisfying recipes that highlight octopus to perfection.
Now the only thing you have to conquer is cooking the octopus. I purchase mine fresh or frozen from a seafood market right on the bay. Handling a raw octopus isn’t for the faint hearted. I’m not saying it’s difficult. It’s very easy. But you do have to cook and clean a somewhat disturbing-looking creature. The trick is to dunk the whole octopus in boiling water before you cut it up. This will magically transform a soggy, limp octopus into a firm one that is much easier to handle. Once it’s chopped up into bite-size chunks, the rest is cake. Just throw your ingredients in a pot and let it stew for a few hours.
A few hours? Yes. Octopus is also one of the few seafood items that benefits from a long cooking time. I tried to find other seafood that you can cook like this, but after a not-so-lengthy Google search, I came up with nothing. According to the experts, ALL seafood should be cooked only 10 minutes. Not the octopus. This creature benefits from cooking in its own juices for 4 or 5 hours (or beating with a plank–something for the more advanced home cook).
I used a 1 1/2 pound fresh octopus for this dish. It looks like a lot, but once the moisture is released, octopus shrinks vastly in size. If you are using frozen octopus, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator first. To prepare, bring a large pot of unsalted water to a hard boil. Place the whole octopus in the boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes. If you are using several smaller octopus, boil for 2-5 minutes.
You will know the octopus is ready when the color changes from grayish brown to a reddish tone and the flesh becomes firm.
Remove the octopus from the water and allow it to cool on a cutting board. Now chop the legs into 2” pieces, moving up to the head. Get in there, cutting the “tube-like” muscles as close to the head as possible. Stop cutting when you get about an inch from the center point—where the beak is. You don’t want to eat this part. For large octopus, you toss the head as well. With baby octopus, leave the head on, making sure the beak has been removed.
Now you are ready to make your stew.
Sauté the onion and celery in olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, about 5 minutes until they are soft but not brown. Add the garlic and saffron and stir a few minutes more. Add the hot and sweet paprika, bay leaf, white wine and stock. Add the octopus and season with ¼ teaspoon of salt and black pepper. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for 3 hours.
Uncover the stew and add the potatoes and mushrooms. Cover and cook for another 40 minutes. Uncover and stir in lemon juice. Taste and season again with salt and pepper if needed. Stir in parsley right before serving.
This delicious dish with wild salmon and dill sauce paired with black Forbidden Rice and simple green salad is full of healthy, antioxidant-rich ingredients. It’s low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids. The taste is luxurious. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Salmon is one of my favorite fish, but I have been steering away from Atlantic farm raised salmon for a while now due to the environmental impact of the farms and health concerns from chemical additives. When I can find fresh, wild salmon, I jump to purchase it. If you don’t eat a lot of wild salmon, the first think you’ll notice it the color. It’s usually much darker. To get that familiar pink color in farmed fish, they actually have to add carotene to the feed. Wild salmon is also more flavorful; unlike the near tasteless farmed variety. It can get confusing choosing which type of seafood is safe and good for the environment, which is why I love the site, seafood.edf.org, for great information on what types of seafood are safe to eat.
One of my favorite parts of salmon is the skin. I could eat it just by itself. It’s chewy, oily, crispy deliciousness. And when I start to think about all of that oil, I remind myself that it’s GOOD fat. Yes, this is the part of the fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and may just lower your risks of chronic disease. So, embrace this fatty treat and revel in its goodness. If you are one of those people who peel your fish skin off in disgust, give it another try. It may just be that it wasn’t cooked properly. The skin should be seasoned well, and really crispy. There’s a technique to this, and it’s pretty easy to get results like the best restaurants.
I paired the fish with black rice, also known as Forbidden rice. This heirloom rice was once grown just for Chinese nobility and can now be found in 4 pound bags on Amazon. I love the dramatic color, and prefer the complex, nutty flavor and chewy texture of black rice to brown. It has virtually the same antioxidant-rich bran as brown rice, but with the added health benefits of anthocyanins, pigments that produce the dark color. According to a report presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, “Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants,” said Zhimin Xu, Associate Professor at the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, La.
With this dish, I also included a mixture of organic baby greens from the market. I love SUPERGREENS! from Organicgirl. It has a colorful and healthy mix of red chard, Swiss chard and arugula. Tossed in a simple vinaigrette; it’s an easy and healthy side.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
To prepare the salmon, season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fillets to the pan, skin side down. Cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the filets from the pan and transfer them to a baking sheet, skin side up. Place the fish in the oven and cook about 5-6 minutes more, until medium rare in the center and flaky on the outside.
To make the sauce, combine yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil and dill. Season with salt and pepper
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 36 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
To prepare the rice, rinse under cold water. Saute shallots in olive oil until tender, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Add shallot mixture, rice, stock, salt and pepper to a rice cooker. This is the time to stick your finger in the pot and taste the seasoning of the stock to make sure it tastes good. Now close the lid and allow to cook roughly 35 minutes. When the rice is cooked, add the lemon juice and stir.
This recipe makes enough vinaigrette for a few salads. Use just a splash for the amount of vegetable in this dish and save the rest for later.
Whisk together ingredients in a large bowl. Toss salad greens in the vinaigrette and serve.