Seldom do I get excited about salads, especially ones made at home.
Don’t get me wrong, I love salads. But I find it hard for some reason to make a really good salad at home that I would be satisfied eating for lunch or dinner by itself. I think the reason behind this is because when I cook at home I almost always prefer making something spicy, and the only spicy salads I make are the Thai variety that usually accompany another main dish. So when I found myself getting excited about making this salad at home, I knew it would be worth the experiment. And it was!
The combination of shrimp and squash/pumpkin might sound weird to some, but if you like these two things individually then you should give this salad a try. I thought the flavors really worked well together. Shrimp curry with calabaza squash (mishti kumro chingri) is a classic Bengali dish (one of my childhood favorites), and I was trying to recreate and play with those flavors in a salad form. I might add more heat with fresh green chilies and a pinch more cumin next time I make this, as I’m pretty sure I’ll be craving it a few more times before the end of winter squash season!
- Shrimp, 8-10 pieces
- Winter squash (such as delicata or acorn squash), 1/2 of one medium-sized squash
- Romaine lettuce (or use mixed greens), one small head, shredded
- Bell peppers, 1/2 of one red & 1/2 of one green, chopped
- Olive oil, 2 tbsp
- Trader Joe’s cilantro dressing, 2 tbsp
- Chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, 2 tbsp
- Fresh cilantro (optional), finely minced
- Paprika, 1 tsp (if you like more heat, use 1/4-1/2 tsp of cayenne instead, or add a bit of red chili flakes)
- Sumac, 1/2 tsp
- Cumin, 1 tsp
- Crispy fried onions, 1/4 cup
- Roasted squash seeds (optional), 2 tsps
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Season half of one winter squash with the paprika (or cayenne), sumac, cumin, salt, pepper and half of the olive oil. Roast in 400 F oven for 25-35 minutes, or until slightly golden. When roasting is complete, let the squash cool down and then slice into 1-inch or bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- Heat remaining olive oil on a skillet. Add shrimp, chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, cilantro dressing and fresh chopped cilantro, if using. Cook the shrimp thoroughly on low-medium heat, about 5-8 minutes, and set aside to cool along with any liquids remaining in the pan (you can also use frozen pre-cooked shrimp, which just needs to be heated for a couple of minutes to thaw/warm). The liquids collected in the pan will become the dressing for the salad, so add more cilantro and chilli-garlic sauce if everything dries out during the cooking process.
- Combine the lettuce and chopped peppers in a large bowl. Toss in roasted squash , shrimp, remaining cilantro-chili-garlic dressing and all of the crispy fried onions. Mix gently, taking care not to break pieces of squash.
- Test salt and seasonings, adding more chili-garlic & cilantro dressing if necessary. Top with roasted squash seeds or more crispy onions if desired.
- Serve immediately.