The dishes whose leftovers never last long in our fridge; these are the recipes that I post.
Twin Cities people will know what’s up when I mention Cafe Latte salads. On special occasions, my folks would take us to dine-in at Cafe Latte. On very special occasions, we’d purchase a German Chocolate Cake. I felt very special moving through the cafeteria line and choosing anything I wanted. It was (and still is) difficult to decide which combination of soup, salad or sandwich I wanted.
Since Cafe Latte offers so many choices in each category, I usually choose a salad sampler that allows me to try three different varieties. Cafe Latte always offers a hearty salad that includes a grain + smoked salmon or shrimp. Of course, the salad with seafood always lands on my plate.
We craved a substantial and healthy salad and so I felt inspired to rework an old recipe for lentil and crab salad tossed in a homemade vinaigrette. Back in 2004 I had originally shared the recipe in Simple, Good & Tasty as part of a series about joining a CSA. This time around, I swapped a few ingredients with equal success.
This salad was the perfect dish to propel us through the second half of a busy week. On busy days, I often have to force myself to pause for lunch, and reach for takeout or a snack without enough protein. This salad is flavorful, filling, and protein-heavy enough to call our names.
Cafe Latte-Inspired Lentil & Shrimp Salad
Cook’s Notes: Add whatever vegetables you enjoy. I simply added some of our favorites. This week I was crunched for time, so I used pre-cooked lentils in a pouch that I found at Target and Melissa brand pre-cooked and chilled beets. You can always cook these yourself. There’s really no “right” way to make this salad. Surimi is an affordable substitute for cooked shrimp. As a word of warning, some brands of surimi are better than others. I’ve found certain grocery store’s house brands to taste pasty and fishy. When I make homemade vinaigrette, I eyeball the ingredients, whisking in oil to the spices and vinegar component until I like the flavor. Chill leftover vinaigrette for future salad or veggie dip. I tossed mine into coleslaw mix to serve with ribs. *Makes 4-6 servings.
8 oz. cooked lentils (If you cook your own, you don’t need to pre-soak them and they cook relatively quickly)
2-3 small cooked beets, diced (I bought a pouch of Melissa brand pre-cooked beets, too).
2 handfuls green beans, blanched and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Cucumber (about half), sliced into half moons
Finely diced onion
Small cooked shrimp or surimi/fake crab. I like to add a lot (1.5-2 cups)
Cilantro, chopped (or parsley)
Dijon mustard (2 good dollops)
Juice of two lemons
Oil (I use olive oil, or a combination of whatever I have on hand).
- To begin preparing the lemon vinaigrette: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the juice of two lemons, a dash of garlic powder, about the same amount of honey as mustard (two squirts of each), a pinch of salt, and a pinch of black pepper.
- While quickly whisking, slowly stream in oil. If you stream in the oil slowly enough while whisking, the oil will mix well with the lemon juice and the dressing will stay emulsified. It’s worth the extra effort.
- The dressing will thicken as you incorporate the oil. Pause every so often and taste the dressing as you go. If the dressing is too tart, whisk in some more oil and/or add more honey. You can always add more spices, too.
- To prepare the salad, combine the cooked lentils, cooked diced beets, blanched green beans, sliced cucumber, a little bit of chopped onion, seafood, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Toss with lemon vinaigrette.
- Before serving, taste the salad for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed. Serve warm or chilled. It’ll taste even better the next day.