Let’s turn the spotlight on ingredients that sparkle in flavor and happen to be healthful at the same time.
Asian food has always excelled in this area, and lately I’ve been drawn to Vietnamese cooking, with its bright, clean essence. Ingredients like fresh mint and cilantro, lemongrass, lime, ginger and the pungent but cleansing fish sauce, made from fermented anchovies (stay with me!) that gives a bracing lift to any dish.
If the word “julienne” in a recipe leaves you at a loss, know that it just means cut into matchsticks. Feel free to shred the vegetables if that’s better for you.
- 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 pounds peeled and deveined extra-large shrimp
- 10 ounces Boston, Bibb or butter lettuce leaves, torn into big pieces
- 1/2 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced or julienned
- 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded or julienned
- 1 cup slivered scallions, white and green parts
- 1/4 cup crushed salted peanuts (optional)
- >> Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
To make dressing: Combine shallots, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, mint and cilantro in a large bowl or container. Set aside.
Fill a large pot about 3/4 full with water, and add lemongrass and salt. Bring water to a boil over high heat, add shrimp and simmer about 4 minutes, until shrimp are just cooked. Drain shrimp and lemongrass into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. The shrimp will not completely cool, which is fine.
Shake strainer to remove any excess water, and add shrimp and lemongrass to dressing. Toss so shrimp are fully coated with dressing. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to 24.
When you are ready to serve, arrange lettuce in a shallow serving dish. Then scatter most of the cucumber, carrots and half the scallions over the lettuce. Distribute the shrimp with its dressing over all, then top with the other half of the slivered scallions, and the handful of carrots and cucumbers remaining. Top with peanuts if desired. Serve cool. Serves 6 to 8.
Nutritional information unavailable.