Thursday, August 18, 2011

RECIPE - Creole Salad (Salada Crioula)

The word creole has several definitions in English and its Portuguese equivalent crioulo has just as many. And the meanings can be contradictory - one of the English definitions is "a person born in the West Indies or Spanish America, but of European, usually Spanish, ancestry", while in the best-known Brazilian Portuguese dictionary, Houaiss, one of the definitions is "blacks (slaves, or descendents of slaves) born in Brazil." In both English and Portuguese, the word can also refer not to persons but to languages. The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines a creole language this way: "A mother tongue formed from the contact of a European language with a local language (especially African languages spoken by slaves in the West Indies."

All of which is to explain that the name for the recipe featured in this post, creole salad, really doesn't provide any useful information about the recipe - what it contains, where it comes from, how or when it's to be eaten. This is one of those recipes with a poetic name, one that is meant to be evocative and inviting. If creole salad were to have a descriptive title, it would probably be called shrimp and avocado salad. For that's what it is - a combination of avocado, coconut milk, cilantro and boiled shrimps.

Whether the name is prosaic or poetic, however, this dish is simple, quick and delicious. It makes a great first course at dinner, or a lunchtime main course. When shopping for ingredients be sure to get good-sized shrimp or increase the number if only small shrimp are available. In Brazil, this recipe would be made with a large, bright-green avocado and half an avocado is sufficient for one person. If only the very small, black and knobby Hass avocados are available to you then a whole one per person is better.
RECIPE - Creole Salad (Salada Crioula)
Serves 2

6 medium shrimp, peeled but with tails attached
4 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp coconut milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
juice of one medium lime
1 or 2 ripe (but not over-ripe) avocados (see note above)
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the avocado(s) in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Using a spoon remove the flesh from the skin, taking care not to tear the skin. Reserve the shells.

Put the avocado flesh in a small mixing bowl, the mix in the coconut milk, the olive oil, and the lime juice. With a spoon mash and mix all the ingredients, but don't overmix. You want some texture remaining at the end of the process, not a homogenous pulp. Season with salt and pepper to taste and reserve.

Bring salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the shrimps and cook until just pink and opaque, about three minutes. Drain into a sieve or colander and refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process. Reserve.

Divide the mashed avocado among the shells, then top with the shrimp, dividing them among the shells as well. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and if desired with the chopped hot chili pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe translated and adapted from recipe by chef Jeff Colas of Maison do Bonfim restaurant in Olinda, Brazil, as published in Prazeres da Mesa magazine. 

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