I don’t often get too excited about salads made at home.
It has nothing to do with salads, which I love. For some reason, however, eating a salad as a meal at home, ironically, never makes me feel at home. I reckon it’s because I didn’t grow up eating salads as a main dish at home. Not many Bangladeshi families do, I suspect. Salads at mealtimes only make minor appearances with traditional Bangladeshi food, as a small accompaniment to main dishes, and usually only consist of a few paltry vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes. Hence, by association with that childhood habit of only eating side-salads during meals at home, the idea of eating a salad as a main course at home just doesn’t sit well with me. So when I found myself getting excited about making this salad for dinner one day, I knew it would be worth the experiment.
The pairing of shrimp and a sweet quash like delicata might sound unusual at first, but if you like these two things individually then I’m sure you will appreciate the combination. Shrimp cooked with calabaza squash (mishti kumro diye chingri) is a classic Bengali dish and one that I’ve always adored. It’s a vibrant dish in which the shrimp and squash is sautéed with onions, ginger, a blend of spices and finished with green chillies, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Playing with familiar flavors, this was my attempt to recreate one of my favorite childhood dishes in a salad form, in the hopes that it might finally trick my mind into associating salads with a sense of comfort, wellbeing and feeling at home. I think it worked.
If you make this dish, feel free to share a photo or any feedback with me on Instagram (@noorieboorie), I’d love to see what you made and will be happy to re-share it on my social media, if you like.
- Shrimp, 8-10 pieces
- Winter squash (such as delicata or acorn squash), 1/2 of one medium-sized squash
- Romaine lettuce (or use mixed greens), one small head, shredded
- Bell peppers, 1/2 of one red & 1/2 of one green, chopped
- Olive oil, 2 tbsp
- Trader Joe's cilantro dressing, 2 tbsp
- Chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, 2 tbsp
- Fresh cilantro (optional), finely minced
- Paprika, 1 tsp (if you like more heat, use 1/4-1/2 tsp of cayenne instead, or add some red chili flakes)
- Sumac, 1/2 tsp
- Cumin, 1 tsp
- Crispy fried onions, 1/4 cup
- Roasted squash seeds (optional), 2 tsps
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Season half of one winter squash with the paprika (or cayenne), sumac, cumin, salt, pepper and half of the olive oil. Roast in 400 F oven for 25-35 minutes, or until slightly golden. When roasting is complete, let the squash cool down and then slice into 1-inch or bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- Heat remaining olive oil on a skillet. Add shrimp, chili-garlic sauce or sriracha, cilantro dressing and fresh chopped cilantro, if using. Cook the shrimp thoroughly on low-medium heat, about 5-8 minutes, and set aside to cool along with any liquids remaining in the pan (you can also use frozen pre-cooked shrimp, which just needs to be heated for a couple of minutes to thaw/warm). The liquids collected in the pan will become the dressing for the salad, so add more cilantro and chilli-garlic sauce if everything dries out during the cooking process.
- Combine the lettuce and chopped peppers in a large bowl. Toss in roasted squash , shrimp, remaining cilantro-chili-garlic dressing and all of the crispy fried onions. Mix gently, taking care not to break pieces of squash.
- Test salt and seasonings, adding more chili-garlic & cilantro dressing if necessary. Top with roasted squash seeds or more crispy onions if desired.
- Serve immediately.