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Eric Akis: Colourful seafood salad makes light spring lunch or dinner

Lemon tarragon honey vinaigrette dressing adds a hint of sweetness to this main-course seafood salad.
Locally grown greens, a mix of vegetables and chilled seafood star in this main-course salad served with lemony vinaigrette. ERIC AKIS

My wife and I recently reminisced about a vacation we took to France last spring. Not surprisingly, the wonderful food we enjoyed during that visit dominated the conversation.

We remembered that long, leisurely lunches in cafés in towns in Provence and also in Paris were highlights of that trip. And on almost every menu we looked a,t one of the ordering options was a main-course salad.

Lining a dinner plate with tender salad greens, topping them with a range of ingredients, and dressing them with vinaigrette were how they were often made. And the toppings included meats such as ham, hard-boiled or gently poached eggs, cheese and vegetables, both raw and cooked.

Some of those salads were also adorned with seafood, and they were the ones that most appealed to me. So much so that just thinking about them again made me want to have one. Since I’m not in France at the moment, I decided to make a homemade version of one for my wife and me.

The process began by seeing what I already had on hand. In my kitchen I found a lemon, green onions, cherry tomatoes and a cucumber. A good start, I thought, but I needed some greens for the salad and found a nice bag of mixed lettuce leaves at Victoria’s Moss Street Market (, along with some radishes. After leaving the market, I stopped at a grocery store to get some seafood for the salad, which included cooked, cold, prawns, bay scallops and some B.C. hand-peeled shrimp.

Once home, I made the dressing for the salad: lemon tarragon honey vinaigrette. To make it, freshly squeezed lemon juice, tarragon, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper were combined in a bowl. Olive oil was then slowly whisked in, creating an emulsified dressing. I then transferred the vinaigrette to a jar, sealed it and refrigerated it until I needed it for the salads.

That vinaigrette had a pleasing lemony, slightly sweet taste with a hint of licorice-like flavour, which came from the tarragon. A mix of tastes that, along with the spicy Dijon mustard, worked well with the ingredients I used in the salad. If you don’t care for tarragon, the recipe for the vinaigrette provides options on what other types of herbs you could use in it.

To make the salad, in a skillet, I seared the scallops until just cooked through, and then cooled them. I then assembled my salad by lining two dinner plates with my mixed lettuce leaves. The lettuce was then artfully topped with the seafood and vegetables noted above, creating two very colourful main-course salads. The vinaigrette was served alongside the salads for drizzling on them, to taste, at the dinning table.

You could serve the salads for a lunch or dinner on a warm spring day with some sliced baguette.

Seafood Salad with Lemon Tarragon Honey Vinaigrette

This colourful, seafood- and vegetable-rich main-course salad will make a nice spring lunch or dinner.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 90 seconds to two minutes

Makes: two servings

2 tsp olive oil

20 to 24 bay scallops, thawed if frozen, and patted dry (see Note 1)

4 to 6 cups mixed salad greens

16, half-moon slices English cucumbers

10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, each halved

1 large green onion, thinly sliced

10 to 12 small radishes, each halved

10 large, cooked, cold, peeled prawns, patted dry (see Note 2)

100 grams hand-peeled shrimp, patted dry (see Note 2)

• Lemon Tarragon Honey Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

• freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To cook scallops, heat the oil in a 9- or 10-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the scallops and cook and turn just until cooked through, about 90 seconds to two minutes. Lift scallops out of the skillet, set on a plate, and cool to temperature. Now cover scallops and refrigerate them. They can be prepared many hours before needed for the salads.

To make the salads, line two dinner plates with the salad greens. Now arrange the cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, radishes, prawns, shrimp and scallops on top of the salad greens. Serve the salad with the vinaigrette and black pepper, for drizzling and sprinkling on the salads at the table.

Note 1: Bay scallops are most often sold frozen in bags in the seafood department of grocery stores. That bag will likely contain more scallops than you’ll need for this recipe. So thaw what you need here and seal up the bag and keep the rest frozen for another use. Bay scallops are small and shrink a bit when cooked, which is why 10 to 12 are used in each serving of salad.

Note 2: Cold, peeled, cooked large prawns and hand-peeled shrimp are sold in the seafood showcase of many grocery stores.

Lemon Tarragon Honey Vinaigrette

This lemony salad dressing has a mild, licorice-like flavour from the tarragon added, and a hint of sweetness, from the honey that is mixed in. This recipe will yield more vinaigrette than you’ll need for the seafood salads, but the leftover dressing will keep well in your refrigerator, at the ready to be used on another salad, when needed.

Preparation time: a few minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: about one cup

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp dried tarragon, or 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh tarragon

• salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3/4 cup olive oil

Thoroughly whisk and combine all ingredients, except oil, in a medium bowl. Very slowly, drizzle and whisk in the oil to create an emulsified dressing. Transfer vinaigrette to a tight-sealing jar and refrigerate until needed. It will keep at least a week. If the vinaigrette has started to separate at some point during storage, to emulsify again, vigorously shake the jar before opening and using.

Eric’s options: If you don’t care for tarragon, add another type of dried or fresh herb, to taste, to the dressing, such as dill, oregano or basil.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.