Summer has arrived a little early in my house — as usual, we are spending spring break down in Kiawah, South Carolina at my in-law’s place, and it has not taken us long to get into vacation rhythm. That goes for the bike riding and general sun-lizarding, but mostly I’m talking about dinner-making, which is to say grilling. Why do I feel like if I lived in warm weather all year long that I would never have a problem with coming up with ideas for dinner? I’d make some version of what you’re looking at up there every single night: some sort of enormous salad with crispy, fresh, flavorful in-season vegetables, plus a few pickled things, plus a grilled protein, whether that’s shrimp (above) or salmon for salmon salad or chicken for this kind of thing (if it was a meat kind of night) plus a bracing, tangy vinaigrette. There’s a great market down here called Blackbird and they sell high-quality everything, from local produce and seafood to Southern specialties like grits and red pepper jelly. Since we are in South Carolina, I went a little crazy on the shrimp purchasing — when Andy was preparing it for the grill I was like “Maybe we don’t need to make it all, that looks like a lot.” But he did and it’s a good thing, because it was all gone so fast and when dinner was over the four of us sat around on the screened porch and did what we always do: discussed why we can’t be on vacation all year long.
Grilled Shrimp with Pickled Vegetables
1 1/2 pound shrimp, shelled, rinsed, dried (preferably Carolina shrimp, or just the freshest you can find!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Dash hot sauce
3 ears corn
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of woody stems
1 small red pepper, finely minced
1 1/2 cups cabbage, shredded (Napa or green)
1 handful pickled okra (see quick-pickling instructions below)
1/3 cup pickled red onions (see quick-pickling instructions below)
generous handful chives, minced
your favorite vinaigrette (I like my classic: whisk together 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, squeeze of fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper; but I’ll bet swapping in rice wine vinegar for the red wine vin would’ve been aces.)
Thread your shrimp on to skewers, all the same direction, so they’ll all lay flat on a grill. (As shown in grilling pic.) Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then brush lightly with olive oil and little hot sauce. Prepare your grill.
Meanwhile, bring a medium-large pot of water to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook corn 3 minutes; using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove ears to a plate. Add asparagus to the same water, simmering for 3-4 minutes depending on thickness. (You want them to be crisp-tender.) Plunge asparagus into a bowl of ice water when finished. (This will stop it from cooking and preserve its bright green color.) Slice kernels off corn and add to a large salad bowl. Chop asparagus into coins, and add to the same bowl. Add cabbage, red pepper, pickled okra and onions, and chives.
Place skewered shrimp on grill set over medium-hot coals, and cook about 2 minutes a side until bright colored. Toss into salad and serve. With rose.
Quick Pickled Vegetables: Bring the following to a boil: 2 cups water, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, a few peppercorns, 1 halved garlic clove. Add okra and simmer for 5-7 minutes until it’s tender but not mushy. Remove using slotted spoon, then add 1/3 thinly sliced red onion. Simmer another 5 minutes and drain.
If you are using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water for about 10 minutes before threading and grilling your shrimp.