Shrimp and escarole salad with salsa verde


I forget that some things that seem so normal to me aren't. For instance, we used warm, fresh salsa as salad dressing when I was growing. It wasn't just my family – it's something that local Austin restaurants would do, too. You don't see it too much any more though.

The warm salsa wilts the greens and coats the protein (typically chicken). The salsa then helps meld together very basic flavors into a cohesive, balanced salad. It feels heartier than a standard salad, but it doesn't have any accompanying lethargy. 

It's when summer rolls around, and many of my favorite greens – here, I use escarole – are at their prime that I pull out this salsa-salad technique. The simplicity of shrimp, slightly bitter escarole and tangy green salsa make for a perfect evening meal outdoors.

This salsa verde isn't just salad-worthy though. It can be used as a bold marinade for chicken and seafood, and, of course, with some chips or tortillas as a dip.

This recipe serves four people – but you might have some leftover salsa (which really isn't a problem).

What to know

I sauté shrimp in this recipe because it's a fast, flavorful way to get protein in a snap. However, grilled shrimp, chicken or fish would be just as delicious.

In the fall, when I'm in the heyday of busy season for work, I'll pick up a rotisserie chicken to get me through the week. This is a recipe that can also be put into that rotisserie chicken rotation. If it's just you, you'll probably want to reserve about a cup of rotisserie chicken for this recipe (1/8-1/4 cup of salsa verde and half a small head of escarole is about right, too).

Keep in mind that a great time to season your shrimp and chop your escarole is while the salsa ingredients are broiling in the directions below – if you can accomplish both of these tasks as the salsa ingredients cook, your meal will take you less than 30 minutes to cook.

What you need

1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more to cook the shrimp

6 tomatillos, husks removed

1 large jalapeño

1 small onion, roughly diced

1 large clove of garlic, skin removed

1/2 tsp salt for salsa verde, plus more to season shrimp

Pepper, to taste

1 lime, optional

2 small heads escarole, washed, dried, chopped and stored covered in the fridge

1 lb of shrimp

How to do it

For the salsa

Place a piece of parchment paper onto a baking pan, and add tomatillos, jalapeño, onion and garlic to the baking sheet. Drizzle vegetable oil over the ingredients on the pan, then place the pan into the oven. Broil on low for 10 minutes, or until the jalapeño begins to blacken and collapse. Using a dish towel to handle it, place the jalapeño on a cutting board. Slice off the top of the jalapeño, including the stem, then slice in half. Using the edge of a knife, scrape out and discard the jalapeño seeds according to taste; the more seeds you leave in, the spicier your salsa will be. Place jalapeño in food processor or blender. Next, lift the parchment paper carefully by the edges and pour in the remaining ingredients and any juices from the pan into the food processor or blender. Add the salt, then blend until smooth – you should still be able to see the tomatillo and jalapeño seeds. Set aside to prepare the shrimp.

For the shrimp

Season shrimp lightly with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large sauté pan, heat vegetable oil – about 1 tablespoon to coat the base of the pan – until it is piping hot over high heat (you want a drop of water to sizzle immediately when it hits the pan). Place shrimp in the pan and drop the heat to medium-high. Cook shrimp for two minutes, before flipping the shrimp to cook for two more minutes on the opposite side. (If you're nervous about cooking seafood, don't be afraid to whip out a meat thermometer; shrimp, when cooked, should have an internal temperature of 130-degrees F.). Remove from the heat and set aside to assemble the salad.

To assemble

In a large bowl, place the shrimp over the chopped escarole. Pour salsa around the rim of the bowl – I start with about half a cup – and begin to toss with salad tongs. Add more salsa verde until it reaches desired taste. Garnish with lime wedges – which add a great bite of acidity – and serve immediately.

For leftovers, you'll want to store components separately, like you would for any salad, in the fridge. Keep the salsa in a sealed or covered container; it will last in your fridge for up to five days.