Once a week, my husband and I repeat the same conversation. I ask him what we should make for dinners during the upcoming week, and he always has one response: “Salads.”

Cover courtesy of Page Street Publishing

Nevermind that when I do buy fresh greens and veggies for said salads, he is apt to enjoy what he calls an appetizer from the pizza slice shop on his way home from work. And while I do like to eat fresh foods, even I will admit that it is hard to get excited about the slowly wilting leaves in my refrigerator after multiple days of spinach.

So the catchphrase printed across the back of Nicky Corbishley’s cookbook caught my eye: “Say ‘goodbye’ to sad salads.” The title on the front promises “Seriously Good Salads: Creative Flavor Combinations for Nutritious, Satisfying Meals.” And the photographs that accompany most recipes don’t look like the depressing desk salads I pack for my lunches.

“Layer those flavors, drizzle with those dressings and include different textures and a rainbow of colors,” Corbishley wrote in the introduction. “It’s not about taking your burger and fries and serving it with a wilted little salad that you’ll probably push to one side anyway. It’s about incorporating those good-for-you elements as a major player in the meal. Flavors that work together.”

I don’t often think salads need a recipe, but this book has 75 of them. Corbishley separated them into several major categories, like meat and poultry or seafood. They cover a wide range, from a buttermilk chicken cobb salad to a Korean bibimbap salad with red rice to a grilled fruit salad. While many rest on greens, some use lentils or grains as a base.

The ingredient lists are as long as my grocery lists on some weeks, and the dressings are generally homemade. I often rely on salads on weeks when the grocery budget is a little tight and we need to keep it simple, but these recipes don’t always fit that bill. I’ll save the panfried Iberico pork and manchego salad for a week when the rent isn’t due. And not all of these salads can be tossed into a bowl in five minutes on a long day of work, so I’ll skip the meats that need marinating on those nights. But the variety in this book still left me with weeknight options that seemed much more satisfying than a bowl of romaine and ranch.

I chose the coconut shrimp salad with Asian slaw for one of those recent weeknights. My husband prepped the vegetables while I made the shrimp, and 10 minutes later, we had dinner on the table. Perhaps we could have spent a few more minutes chopping the cabbage (I used a green cabbage rather than the variety called for in the recipe, which I could not find at my grocery store) because the pieces were too long and difficult to eat.

But the shrimp was delicious, and the two of us ate all four servings. And the dressing was the real star. I was tempted to throw away the sad bottle of balsamic vinaigrette in my refrigerator because I am not sure I can ever go back. Perhaps all those homemade dressings are worth a few minutes of assembly time.

This book was a good reminder to both of us that salads can be both healthy and filling, quick and creative. Maybe I won’t roll my eyes when my husband requests salads for next week. (Just maybe.)

Coconut Shrimp Salad with Asian Slaw

Serves 4

COCONUT SHRIMP:

1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil

8 ounces (227 grams) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed

3 tablespoons (23 grams) all-purpose flour

Good pinch of salt and pepper 

1 large egg

1/3 cup (80 ml) canned coconut milk

5 tablespoons (35 grams) panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup (21 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut 

SRIRACHA DRESSING

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

1 tablespoon (15 ml) sriracha 

1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 tablespoons (30 grams) honey

Juice of 1/2 lime

Pinch of salt and pepper

ASIAN SLAW

1 sweetheart cabbage, finely sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 scallions, sliced into thin strips

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin strips

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup (40 grams) chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the oil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, pat the shrimp with paper towels to ensure they’re not too damp.

Take 3 bowls. Add the flour, salt and black pepper to the first bowl; mix the egg and coconut milk in the second bowl; and mix the panko and shredded coconut in the third bowl.

Coat the shrimp in the flour, then dip into the egg mixture and finally, coat in the coconut mixture.

When the oil is hot — you can tell it’s hot enough by tossing in a couple of the panko bread crumbs; if they sizzle and start to brown very quickly, it’s ready — add in the shrimp. Cook on one size until golden brown, about two minutes, then turn over and cook the other side until golden brown, one to two minutes.

Remove from the skillet and transfer to a bowl lined with paper towels to remove any excess oil.

In a small bowl, stir together all the dressing ingredients.

In a large serving bowl, arrange the cabbage, onions, scallions, carrots, bell peppers and 3/4 cup (30 grams) of the cilantro. Drizzle with a little of the dressing.

Add the coconut shrimp and toss with the remaining cilantro, sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.

Serve with the rest of the salad dressing.


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