Russell’s cousin was just here visiting us from Massachusetts.
This has been a really weird summer, both personally and socially, not to mention the fact that the weather has been all over the place. Back in May I was completely gung-ho about spending tons of time outdoors and hosting barbecues every weekend, but sometimes life gets in the way, you know? Russell left his job early this summer to move into a new career. He was comfortable but miserable at his last job and now he’s found something he totally loves. Things are looking up and he’s doing great now, but money has been a little tight over the past couple months. Even though feeding and hosting our friends has always been something we both love to do, we haven’t been able to justify the expense this summer. Beyond all that, we’ve both been working weird hours lately and have had a hard time getting days off together, not to mention the fact that this August has been unseasonably cool, grey, and fall-like.
While Russell’s cousin was in town though, we were determined to get outside, fire up the grill, and reclaim this summer. We worked out a day when we’d both be off of work and started making arrangements. A menu was planned, wine was bought, and a trip taken to the farmers market for ingredients.
One of my favorite quick summery meals to throw together for company (or for a weeknight meal) is a spicy & tangy salad with shrimp, corn, tomatoes, & avocado. Late in summer the tomatoes and corn are impossibly bright and fresh and juicy, so I knew this would be the perfect easy meal for entertaining.
And then the weather decided not to cooperate. It didn’t quite pour all day, but the sky was grey and dreary, the temperature brisk, and the weather bounced between drizzle and mist for most of the day. Even though the weather was working against us, we had everything we needed for our no-longer-to-be-grilled meal, so we forged ahead.
Instead of grilling the shrimp on skewers as planned, they were roasted on a sheet pan in the oven. To give the corn some color and flavor, I traded one open flame for another and attempted to “grill” the ears by resting them over the burner grates on the gas range. As the ears sizzled and popped I slowly rotated them until they were ever-so-slightly, but evenly, charred all over. The corn wasn’t cooked through but it definitely took on a good grilled flavor. The corn was super fresh from the farmer’s market, so it was sweet and crunchy enough that we could have eaten it completely raw if we’d wanted to.
Despite being super delicious and impressive, this meal comes together pretty quickly with very little fuss. It’s great for company, but works just as well as a simple weeknight meal for you and your family. The most time consuming step is prepping and chopping the vegetables and making the dressing, but there aren’t a ton of things to chop and the dressing is really simple, with only a few ingredients. If you want to get a head start, you could make the dressing a few hours ahead, or you could even make the whole salad ahead and serve it straight from the refrigerator.
Whether you make this indoors or out, it is unbelievably summery and totally delicious and satisfying. The combination of flavors and textures in this salad are perfectly married together, but since no one flavor overpowers anything else, each ingredient is able to stand out on it’s own and really shine. Crunchy smoky sweet corn, plump sweet red cherry tomatoes, soft creamy unctuous avocado, biting bright red onion, tender perfectly-cooked roasted shrimp, and tangy spicy citrus dressing. Heaven.
Can you think of anything better to share with your family and friends on a summer night?
Roasted Shrimp and Charred Corn Salad with Jalapeño Lime Dressing
zest and juice of 2 limes (you want at least 1/4 cup juice)
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped (skip or replace with parsley if you don’t like cilantro)
2 jalapeños, seeded and very finely diced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
3 ears of sweet corn, shucked
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1 red onion, diced
2 ripe avocados
Preheat oven to 425, or preheat a charcoal grill.
To make the dressing, add 1/4 cup olive oil and lime zest and juice to a mixing bowl. Mix in finely diced jalapeño, chopped cilantro, and crushed garlic. Stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Toss shrimp in 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet pan. Roast for 5 or 6 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked through. You could also arrange the shrimp on skewers and grill them for about the same time. At the same time, lightly char the shucked ears of corn on the grill or over a high flame on the stove top. I found the best way to do this is to use metal tongs to hold the ears, and rotate every minute or so until the corn is just beginning to blacken all the way around the ear. Slice the corn off the ear with a sharp knife, by holding the ear straight upright and rotating the ear while shaving downward with the knife. (If desired, you could also slice the corn off the ear first, and roast it in the oven on a parchment lined sheet pan at the same time as the shrimp.)
Add corn, shrimp, tomatoes, and red onion to a large bowl. Just before serving slice your avocado up in bite sized chunks (*see cooks note) and add to salad. Pour dressing over entire salad and gently toss, trying not to mash the avocado. Serve with a little chopped cilantro and a lime wedge if desired.
*Cooks Note: Be sure to wait to slice the avocado until the last minute, or it will turn brown. I like to slice my avocado in half and remove the pit with a chef knife, and then switch to a butter knife to divide it into chunks. A butter knife is sharp enough to cut the soft flesh, but won’t go through the skin as easily. Once divided into chunks, I scoop the avocado out with a big dinner spoon.