They say that if you find at least one recipe that you love in a cookbook it is worth the price that you paid for it. I have just begun reading a new cookbook that I purchased at one of my favorite haunts, The Screen Door in Asheville. The Screen Door is basically an antique mall with an emphasis on garden design, but one section of the store is devoted to books and more books. They are all new books with an emphasis on cookbooks and design books. The prices are at least 40% off of the retail price and sometimes you can find terrific bargains like the book I purchased. Are you ready for this? I found a James Beard Foundation winner by Peggy Knickerbocker called Simple Soirees; Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties, for $7.00. The list price on the book is $35.00. It would be worth it even if I had paid full price for it for this sensational salad recipe. And there are many more eye poppers just like it in this beautiful book.
The beauty of this salad is the beauty. I love the luscious layers that are created by four separate salads that can be made ahead of time and assembled quickly at meal time. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but it tastes sublime. There is so much complexity to each layer that taken as a whole, it sparks taste buds that you never knew you even had. I can hardly wait to serve it to guests. The only thing you need that you may not have is a 4 or 5 inch metal ring open on the top and bottom that you can buy at a cooking or hardware store. If you do not wish to buy one you can layer the four salads in a trifle bowl.
DAZZLING SALAD TOWERS
For the Shrimp Salad:
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp
2 Tbls fresh lemon juice
Splash of olive oil
2 green onions, minced
Bring 1 cup of water, the bay leaf, wine, peppercorns, and salt to a boil in a small pot. Add the shrimp, reduce the heat to a moderate simmer, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink. Drain, rinse briefly in cold water, and spread out on the side of the sink until cool. Peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, and green onions. Cover and refrigerate. This can be done hours before the party.
For the Tomato Salad:
4 large tomatoes, cored and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
10 large basil leaves cut into thin strips
2 Tbls olive oil
Place the tomatoes in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper to taste, the garlic, basil, and olive oil. Cover and refrigerate. Right before assembling, transfer the salad to a colander to drain the excess juices.
For the Avocado Salad:
3 to 4 ripe Hass avocaos, peeled with seed removed
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 medium tomato, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeno chili, slit lengthwise, seeded, and minced
A pinch of brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands, leaving some chunks.
For the Cucumber Salad:
1 small clove of garlic
1 Tbls capers, drained
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
Black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 English cucumber
1 Tbls chopped oregano
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Add the capers and pound again. Add the vinegar and pepper and mix with a fork. Then add the olive oil and mix again with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice each half into thin pieces. Add cucumber pieces to bowl and toss with dressing. Sprinkle with oregano and toss again. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
To Assemble the Stacked Salad:
Place one 4 to 5 inch ring in the center of a dinner plate. Gently spoon in a layer of the avocado salad and smooth it with the back of the spoon Using a slotted spoon, place a layer of the tomato salad on top of the avocado salad. Then using a slotted spoon, place a layer of the cucumber salad on top of the tomato salad. Arrange a layer of shrimp salad attractively on top of the cucumber salad. Very gently remove the ring. Repeat the procedure for each serving. Makes 6 towers.