Summer is a wonderful time to entertain – people just seem more relaxed and its easy to do something elegant and impressive without slaving away for days. Like this colorful salad. I love the big platter salad (witness the Southern Buttermilk Cobband the Muffalettaversions). The big platter were purchased from discount stores that have proven fantastically useful. And a big, colorful display of delicious food never fails to impress. And people love to customize their meal without making a fuss – just serve up the bits you like for a perfect meal.
Below I’ve laid out my basic blueprint. This may look like a lot of work, but I promise it is not, but the reward is pretty spectacular. And the elements can be done ahead in stages with only the assembly to deal with, and that doesn’t require turning on the oven or standing over the stove if you plan ahead. Choose any big, generous platter and arrange all the ingredients attractively. I use medium sized shrimp that are easier to eat in a salad, but bigger ones are just fine. I like to line the platter with lettuce leaves, then leave some readily accessible so people can easily build the salad to their own tastes. And get creative – add any other ingredients that take your fancy, I have sometimes sprinkled over crispy tortilla strips or added wedges of lime to squeeze over everything.
Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter
For the Pickled Red Onion:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup water
½ cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon pickling spice
Layer the onions in a pint jar or glass bowl. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices to a boil in a small pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine over the onions and leave to cool, then seal and keep in the refrigerator for a least an hour, but the onions will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
For the Cilantro-Lime Dressing
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk
Zest and juice of one small lime
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup of cilantro leaves and stems
Place all the ingredient in the order listed in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into an airtight container, cover and refrigerated for up to two days.
For the Shrimp:
2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed if frozen (35- 40 count), tails removed
2 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons tequila
2 Tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour in the oil, tequila and lime juice in a bowl or a ziptop bag and stir or shake to blend. Pat the shrimp dry and place in the marinade. Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil. Drain the shrimp from the marinade and place in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then roast 8 – 10 minutes until pink and curled and cooked through. Cool the shrimp for a few minutes, then put in a bowl or on a plate and refrigerate until chilled. When they are cold, you can cover the shrimp and keep in the fridge for 24 hours.
For the Corn:
12 ounces fresh or frozen corn
2 Tablespoons lime juice
Chile – lime seasoning (such as Tajin) or chili powder
Salt and pepper
Put the corn in a pan and cover with water by about ½ inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Thoroughly drain the corn and place in a bowl, the squeeze over the lime juice and stir to coat. Season well with Tajin, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
One head of butter lettuce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
5 radishes, thinly sliced
1 (8-ounce) jar pickled jalapenos, drained
10 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
2 avocados, diced
1 lime, squeezed over the avocado to prevent browning.
Line a big platter with lettuce leaves, then attractively arrange the remaining ingredients, with some lettuce readily accessible. Serve with tongs, spoons and a ladle for the dressing.
Serves 6 – 8