Too often, I get into trouble with a recipe that’s just too much food for two people. Try as I may, cutting back on volume isn’t always the easiest task. Things that say they are for four people are relatively simple to divide in half. It’s when you get to recipe for 6 or 8 servings that I start having problems. So you can imagine my intimidation when I saw this recipe from Specialty Food Magazine. It was for 24 (8 ounce) portions. But two things stirred me into action. The first was that I cannot get enough coconut — or shrimp for that matter. The second is that summer is always in need of a great new salad recipe. And after I put together this wonderfully aromatic salad with its sweet shrimp, intense coconut flavor and hints of pistachio and peanut, I knew this was worth the mathematical effort it required.
Specialty Food Magazine is hardly a regular resource for recipes for me. Especially since its recipes are really for people who are running restaurants and, in this case apparently, take-out counters. The 24 portions were said to have a shelf-life of 3 days. But not wanting to set up shop or start a Coconut Shrimp stand on the street, I cut the recipe back mightily. We still had some leftovers but of a totally manageable size. This recipe is now a respectable serving for 4 people. And hopefully, you won’t have to worry about it shelf life since my guess is it will disappear at one sitting.
Coconut, in all its forms—as coconut water, milk, palm sugar and flakes—is very easy to find. I got every one of them at Whole Foods. Coconut water is now prized for its health food benefits. It’s low in carbs, 99% fat free and low in sugars. Coconut milk on the other hand is quite caloric and I’d go with the light versions. Coconut Palm Sugar is hardly a health food but it does have a very low carb profile and it has an absolutely phenomenal taste—far deeper and more complex than brown sugar which it resembles visually. Finally there are the coconut flakes. Toasted, these golden brown shreds give your salad a wonderful texture. Please note that no Palm Oil went into the making of this salad.
If you love coconut, what’s great about this dish is that the whole thing is perfumed with it and cooked with coconut at every stage. The cooking water for the rice is the starting point. Then there’s the coconut palm sugar in the dressing for a slight sweetness and the coconut milk which makes it creamy. The coconut flakes in the salad give it crunch. Finally the whole thing takes 45 minutes prep time and you can make it ahead of time thanks to that advertised 3 day shelf life. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Coconut Shrimp Salad adapted from Joanna Pruess’ recipe in Specialty Food Magazine:
1 1/2 cups coconut water
1 cups jasmine rice
¼ cup vegetable or coconut oil
16 peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1/2 cups peanut butter
1/4 cups coconut milk
1 freshly squeezed lime
2 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
1 ounce fresh ginger, chopped
1 Jalapeno pepper, chopped, plus 1 tbsp. red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic
4 thinly sliced scallions, including most of the green parts
1 1/2 ounces chopped pistachios, plus extra to garnish
1 ounces coconut flakes, toasted, plus ½ ounce for garnish
1 cup fresh basil leaves, finely julienned, plus extra for garnish
1. Combine coconut water, rice and ¼ cup of oil in a saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Turn into a large strainer, rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, cook shrimp in skillet until just done, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. If jumbo shrimp, cut in three pieces and add to the rice.
3. In the jar of an electric blender, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, Thai fish sauce, palm sugar, ginger, 1/2 chopped jalapeno, red pepper flakes and garlic; purée until smooth. With the motor running, add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and let it emulsify.
4. Add scallions, pistachios, coconut flakes, basil leaves and the remaining jalapeno to the rice. Pour about two-thirds of the dressing over the salad and toss to blend. Add remaining dressing and additional lime juice, if desired. Transfer to a serving platter and add remaining pistachios, coconut flakes and basil leaves as garnishes.