When the weather’s hot, serving a satisfying main-course salad for dinner is a chill thing to do. It can also be a very tasty option if very fresh, cold cooked seafood plays a starring role in it as it did in my “retro” Shrimp Louie Salad.
I say retro because salads named “Louie,” such as crab Louie and shrimp Louie, became popularized on the west coast of North America in early 1900s, in places such as San Francisco. A century or so later they are still served in that city and others, such as Seattle and Portland, with numerous restaurants still listing their variation of Louie on their menus.
The exact origins of the salad are not clear, with all three cities noted above having documented links to its early days of being served. No room to get into those historical details here, but if you’re interested, search crab Louie on the food history-rich What’s Cooking America website (whatscookingamerica.net) and you will find them.
Why the salad has remained popular all these years later could be that’s it’s not overly complicated and could be called cold-comfort food. A familiar, flavourful combination of cold cooked seafood, crisp lettuce, ripe tomato, hard-boiled egg and sometimes other items, such as cucumber, olives and/or asparagus, depending on the cook making it, all served with an addictive, tangy/sweet salad dressing.
With regard to that dressing, it’s a mayonnaise-based one with countless variations, but most blend in such things as chili sauce or ketchup, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings.
To make my version of shrimp Louie salad, I bought some wonderful B.C. hand-peeled shrimp at my neighbourhood seafood store. They are called “hand-peeled” because after cooking, the company selling them hand-peels them, resulting in a product with a firmer texture, brighter pink colour and fuller flavour than machined-peeled shrimp, for example.
That said, if you can’t find hand-peeled shrimp, you could use another type of cooked, peeled, cold shrimp in the salad. When buying them, remember that when very fresh they’ll have a mild sea-like aroma. If they have an overpowering one with hints of ammonia, it’s a sign they’ve been sitting around too long and should be avoided.
Cooked shrimp are quite perishable and it’s best to buy them the day you will eat them. But, if need be, they could be removed from their store packaging, transferred to a bowl, covered and stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator for one day.
My shrimp Louie salad also has B.C. roma tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers and eggs in it; a colourful, eye-appealing combination perfect for summer. The recipe serves two, but could be doubled or further expanded if serving a larger group.
Shrimp Louie Salad
This main-course salad sees B.C. shrimp, quartered boiled eggs and local summer vegetables arranged on dinner plates, before being topped with a tangy/sweet dressing.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: none
Makes: two servings
For salad dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp horseradish
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
• splash Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
• tiny pinch onion powder and garlic powder
• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
225 grams B.C. hand-peeled shrimp or other small, cooked shrimp
5 to 6 cups mixed salad greens or chopped head or romaine lettuce, or to taste
2 medium or hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled and quartered
12 to 14 green beans, trimmed, cut in half widthwise, and blanched (see Note)
2 ripe roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
12 thin slices English cucumber, each halved
• lemon slices, for garnish
To make dressing, combine its ingredients in a bowl or jar, cover or seal and refrigerate until needed. It will keep in refrigerator many days.
Pat shrimp dry with paper towel if there’s excess moisture on them. To make the salads, set some salad greens (or chopped lettuce) on each of two dinner plates. Artfully top the greens (or chopped lettuce) on each plate with shrimp, eggs, green beans, tomatoes and cucumber. Garnish each plate with lemon slices and serve the salads with the dressing, for generously drizzle on them at the dinner table.
Note: To blanch the green beans, plunge them into boiling water one to two minutes, drain well, cool with cold water, and then drain well again.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.