Week Night Yum Yum: California Cobb Salad

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I made this salad on the fly last night using lots of the fresh produce my local farm delivered me this week. It was fun, super colorful and very light and refreshing and I loved it. So did The Hubsters. I realized halfway through making this I was making a spin on the Cobb Salad, but using California ingredients. It starts off traditional with romaine lettuce (I add spinach also for health factor), onions, avocados, and then I go from there: chicken or turkey is swapped out for super tender shrimp infused with subtle coriander and lemon; tomatoes are swapped for fresh orange; artichokes take the place of the egg; goat cheese steps in for bleu; and instead of bacon (which I do love by the way), I use finely chopped almonds that I toast to get that crunchy factor in the salad. I noticed that the artichokes, avocados, oranges, and almonds were all California-grown ingredients, so I named it the California Cobb.

I love a traditional Cobb Salad. Seriously -- it's one of my all time favorite salads ever -- but I do love this lighter and healthier version as well. And I know you will too.

California Cobb Salad:
1.5 lbs raw extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 bay leaves
1 lemon cut in half
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 head romaine lettuce or other green leafy lettuce
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (or to taste)
3 scallions, ends trimmed and cut in chunks on the diagonal
1 cup cilantro leaves, whole and packed loosely
2 Tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts (in water or oil), drained
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 orange, peeled and segmented
2-3 Haas avocados, diced
1/3 cup almonds, chopped small and toasted*
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh goat cheese

First, cook the shrimp. Fill a medium sized pot with water and add the lemon halves, bay leaves, and coriander to the water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, season the water liberally with salt, about 2 Tbsp worth. Add the shrimp all at once and cook until they turn bright pink and are firm, about 3 minutes. Cooking time will depend on size of shrimp.

While shrimp cook, assemble your salad. Place the romaine, spinach, red onion, scallions, cilantro, mint, artichoke hearts, mango, orange, avocados, and almonds in a large mixing bowl. Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Add the shrimp to the salad still warm and pour the vinaigrette over. Toss gently with two spoons (using tongs will bruise the spinach too much) and top with fresh goat cheese to taste. Serve immediately.

*To toast almonds, place them in a shallow pan and heat over medium heat. The heat will draw out the natural oils in the almonds and that oil is what will toast them. You'll start to hear the almonds "crack" -- this means the oil is getting drawn out and toasting them and is a good thing. Watch carefully not to burn. Transfer nuts to another bowl or dish and do not leave in the pan to cool; they will continue to cook and burn if you do.

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