Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricanes, Earthquakes and Avocado Shrimp Salad

It's been a crazy week here in NY.  Last week started out with an earthquake and ended with a hurricane.  By the grace of God, my immediate neighborhood escaped the hurricane unscathed.  When I ventured out after the storm, I was shocked to see the damage just a few blocks away; fallen trees and branches that crushed roofs of houses and cars, sidewalks damaged by uprooted trees and downed wires leaving homes and businesses without electricity.  Closer to the water, people were pumping out their basements, and in some cases,  main floors of their homes.  But in the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse, a whole lot worse, and I am thankful for having escaped the wrath of Mother Nature.

The earthquake was a real shocker.  It had been many years since I'd felt the earth move like that.  When I lived in Santa Cruz I experienced my share of quakes, so I immediately recognized that familiar "wave-like" motion of my office chair.  I felt that quick rush of adrenaline that only an earthquake brings.  The earthquake was the topic of conversation for the next few days (until we learned that a hurricane was headed our way) and made me think a lot about Santa Cruz.  I was long gone from Santa Cruz when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit in 1989.  That earthquake destroyed several buildings downtown in the Pacific Garden Mall, one of which was The Cooper House.  It broke my heart to learn that the beautiful old building that was once a courthouse and withstood the 1901 earthquake was damaged beyond repair.  The Cooper House was the heart of downtown.  In the 1960's it was converted to house shops and eateries, my favorite was the Cooper House Cafe.  I spent many days basking in the sun at this outdoor cafe, sipping wine, listening the sounds of  Warmth, the jazz band that played there for years, and watching the pajama people.  Pajama people is the name we affectionately gave to the regulars who danced on the sidewalk, swaying to the jazzy sounds of Warmth, oblivious to the world around them.  They were one with the music.  They would occasionally ensnare an unsuspecting tourist into their web of dance.  Some people got into it, others would squirm away in disgust.  It was my favorite place to people watch.  And yes, they looked like they were wearing their pajamas.  They dressed like colorfully mismatched Hare Krishnas.

So you are probably wondering what this has to do with avocado shrimp salad.  When I had some extra money, (I was young and poor back then, except on payday) and I wanted to be extra nice to myself,  I would splurge and get an avocado stuffed with shrimp to go along with my wine.  I think that was the only thing I ever ordered at Cooper House, but it was all I needed.  Shrimp and avocado are such a natural combination.  Now my favorite way to make shrimp salad is with diced avocado.  I add citrus and a relatively small amount of mayo.   A ripe Haas avocado seems to melt when combined with the citrus and makes a creamy dressing that is so much better than the run of the mill mayo shrimp salad.

Avocado Shrimp Salad
Serves 2-3
  • 8 ounces cleaned, boiled, chilled, extra large shrimp**
  • 1 Haas avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together lime juice, mayonnaise, dill and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add diced avocado and gently toss.
  3. Cut shrimp in half, making large bite-sized pieces.
  4. Add shrimp, onion and celery.  Gently toss until shrimp and vegetables are coated with dressing.
  5. Chill and allow flavors to meld for 30 minutes.
Serve on a bed of greens or make a sandwich using a crusty bread like sourdough or baguette.  If you use a baguette, hollow out the center, and fill with shrimp salad.

**You can purchase cleaned cooked shrimp or cook and clean your own.  This is an excellent way to make boiled shrimp.

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