Friday, June 8, 2012

Grilled Shrimp Greek Salad

Panzanella is a classic Italian salad made with bread and tomatoes.  The toasted bread soaks up the wonderful tomato juices and adds a nice texture and flavor contrast to the fresh tomatoes.  This recipe puts a Greek twist on the classic by substituting grilled pita for the bread and adding feta, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers and grilled shrimp to the mix.  The result is a fresh, vibrant, colorful salad that comes together in minutes and is as healthy as it is delicious.

Don't like shrimp?  Substitute chicken or leave it out entirely for a fabulous Greek vegetarian salad or side dish. 

This dish is a great example of the Mediterranean Diet advociated by doctors (including the Mayo Clinic) as part of a healthy lifestyle. The Mediterranean Diet is based on fruits and vegetables as a mainstay.  Seafood and poultry are preferred protein sources and olive oil substitutes for butter.  Following the basics of a Mediterranean Diet helps maintain heart health as well as overall health and weight when combined with regular exercise and a dose of red wine.  (Really. It actually says that on the Mayo website.).

Anyway, all anyone really needs to know is that this salad tastes great and is a perfect dish for summer.  After all, it's grilled! 

The Lawyer likes to grill so much that he's been know to go outside and grill when it's snowing.....or when it's 20d below zero.....or when it's 110d in the shade.  (He does bird calls to the doves while the food cooks.)  The problem with winter grilling is if you use a charcoal grill and happen to have a little spark flare-up it can be tough on the outer layer of your parka.  One of those life lessons, I guess. 

* * click here for a printable recipe * *

 Grilled Shrimp Greek Salad
Serves 4 (main course)

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for brushing
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
½ English cucumber, cut into ½” pieces
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 lb large (20 to 24 per lb) peeled and deveined shrimp
2 (8-inch) pita breads
1 yellow bell pepper, sides cut off and remainder discarded
6 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/2” cubes
Salt and pepper
6 (8-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, half the oregano and half the garlic in a large bowl or zip top bag. Stir in the shrimp until well coated and marinate at room temperature 10 minutes. (Note: do not marinate the shrimp for longer times or the lemon will begin to “cook” the shrimp.)

Prepare grill for cooking.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, half of oregano, half of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Gently stir tomatoes, cucumber, and onion into dressing and let stand at room temperature while grilling.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the shrimp and toss to coat. Thread 4 shrimp on each skewer without crowding. Season with salt and pepper.

Lightly brush pitas and bell pepper on both sides with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill pitas 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals until browned and slightly crisp, about 2 minutes per side, then transfer to a rack or plate. Pitas will continue to crisp as they cool.

Grill the bell pepper just until softened, about 1.5 minutes per side. Grill the shrimp until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

Break the pitas into bite-sized pieces and coarsely chop the bell pepper. Remove the shrimp from skewers and gently stir into the tomato mixture with pitas, bell pepper, feta, and salt and pepper to taste.

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