Avocado, Fennel and Grapefruit Salad with Grilled Shrimp

What to make for dinner on a Friday evening when you don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen?  A salad!  Salads can be whipped up in no time, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and you can add whatever you like or whatever is in the fridge that needs to be used before it spoils.  And the dressing doesn’t have to be elaborate either.  One of my favorite go-to dressings is extra-virgin olive oil and a few splashes of sushi vinegar (seasoned rice vinegar).  Add this to any salad, season with salt and pepper and mangia!

Avocados contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds that can contribute to the nutrient quality of your diet.  The high fat content of an avocado gives a quicker feeling of satiation which helps to reduce overeating and being more palatable reduces the temptation to binge on foods high in sugars or saturated fats.

Fennel is related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander and is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of fiber.  It was revered by the Greeks and the Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties. Today, the United States, France, India and Russia are among the leading cultivators of fennel.

Serves 2 (as a main course or 4 as an appetizer)
adapted from Fine Cooking

1 ruby red grapefruit
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shallot, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice; more as needed
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3⁄4 lb. jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.), peeled and deveined
1 large head Boston lettuce, washed and torn into large bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
1 cup mâche sprigs
1⁄2 small bulb fresh fennel, cored and very thinly sliced or shaved on a mandoline (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium-size ripe avocado
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (optional)

Watch this video on how to segment a grapefruit.  Put 3 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, olive oil, shallot, lime juice, salt, fennel seeds, and pepper in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake it vigorously to combine. Taste and add more lime juice if needed.

Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the vinaigrette for dressing the salad and pour the remaining vinaigrette into a medium nonreactive bowl. Put the shrimp in the bowl with the vinaigrette, toss, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Prepare a hot gas or charcoal grill.  Or, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the shrimp until just cooked through, about 1-1⁄2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and let the shrimp cool slightly.

Put the lettuce, mâche, sliced fennel, and cilantro in a large bowl. Peel and cut the avocado into 1⁄2-inch chunks. Give the reserved vinaigrette a vigorous shake and drizzle about 3 tablespoons over the salad. Toss the salad gently to combine; the vinaigrette should just coat the leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the salad between two dinner plates or four salad plates. Scatter the avocado, grapefruit, and shrimp over the salad. Sprinkle with the feta (if using), drizzle with a little of the remaining vinaigrette, and serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  FRESH and on the table in no time…now you’re talking my kind of dish! Enjoy this with a glass of Riesling.  Happy Memorial Day weekend!