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A dinner outing with friends to a new market/deli restaurant provided me with memories of a salad that I couldn’t forget and inspired me to try making it at home. Picture half of a romaine heart sprinkled with fresh bay shrimp, bits of juicy, red, ripe tomatoes, chopped hard boiled eggs, crisp pieces of bacon, and drizzled with homemade Thousand Island dressing. It’s nothing fancy or anything original, but this salad shines on many counts. In a sense, it’s a delicious combination of a wedge salad and a chopped salad, but only better. Romaine lettuce is more nutritious than iceberg lettuce and the flat surfaces of halved romaine hearts are superior for holding toppings over a wedge. The toppings are also reminiscent of ingredients found in a chopped salad. It’s a versatile salad that can be prepared ahead of time and is beautifully served preassembled on a platter or on individual salad plates. For a larger group, this salad can be arranged as an appetizing salad bar. If you’re going the salad bar route, offer more than one salad dressing. For your convenience, I’ve included recipes for both Thousand Island and Creamy Blue Cheese dressings.

Shrimp and Romaine Heart Salad
Recipe by Linnell

Ingredients for Salad:
Romaine hearts (1/2 per person)
Hard boiled eggs, chopped
Bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
Ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Fresh Bay Shrimp, rinsed and patted dry
Salad dressing (recipes for Thousand Island Dressing and Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing below)

Directions:
1. Cut romaine hearts in half lengthwise. Cut off bottoms of stems close to the ends (you want to keep as many leaves attached as possible). Cut off top leaves, so that all hearts are the same length. These tops can be washed and saved for another salad.

2. Carefully place two romaine halves at a time in a salad spinner filled with water. Let sit a bit, pour out water and spin dry.
3. Place romaine halves, cut side down, in an airtight square or rectangular container with paper towels lining the bottom. Add more romaine halves until bottom of container is covered. Cover with another paper towel and then the lid. If storing many romaine halves and the container is deep, place a layer of paper towels over the first layer of romaine halves, add more romaine halves, again cut side down on top of paper towels. Repeat this layering process until all romaine halves are carefully stored. Store container in the refrigerator.
4. Prepare salad dressing(s) and refrigerate.
5. Prepare toppings and refrigerate those that need refrigeration.
6. To plate salad, either place one romaine half on a salad plate, sprinkle toppings over it, and drizzle with salad dressing or arrange all romaine halves on a large platter and sprinkle with toppings and dressing. For a salad bar, place romaine hearts on a platter and place toppings and dressings in small bowls.

Thousand Island Dressing
Recipe from Food.com

Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon finely minced white onions
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 dash black pepper

Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well.
2. Place dressing in a covered container and refrigerate for several hours, stirring occasionally, so that the sugar dissolves and the flavors blend.

Makes 5 servings

Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing
Recipe by Rachel Ray

Ingredients:
6 ounces (about 1/3 pound) double cream blue veined cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
2 pinches ground cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Mash softened cheese with fork in a bowl.
2. Whisk in the cream and sour cream onto cheese, the consistency should be smooth with an occasional small bit of blue.
3. Season with salt and pepper and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate.

Makes 4 servings

Linnell’s Notes:
1. At a recent party I hosted, I served this salad as a salad bar. Not knowing everyone’s likes and dislikes, I felt it was better to let my guests add their own toppings. About one hour before my guests arrived, I removed the romaine halves form the storage container and arranged them on a platter. I also spooned the toppings and both salad dressings into small bowls. All were covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until serving time.

2. Do not limit yourself to the toppings listed above. Substitute ingredients to suit your own taste and incorporate seasonal items. For example, use fresh crab meat instead of shrimp, or if fresh corn is in season, by all means use some fresh sweet corn kernels as a topping, etc.

3. I did not add very much salt to the blue cheese dressing because the cheese was already on the salty side.

Enjoy!

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