Have you ever whipped up a spicy dish — chili, for example — and realized when it’s too late that you somehow overdid it and added way too much of the hot stuff? Happily, there are two very simple ways to restore some equilibrium: adding dairy and/or sugar. It’s a balancing act performed all over the world. The Indians serve their vindaloo with yogurt. Mexicans tamp down the heat of their habaneros with crema or sour cream. Here in the U.S., we use sugar to counteract the heat in our barbecue sauce (although we then tend to overdo it in the other direction and make it too sweet).
So, how to tame the heat in this spicy shrimp? I went with sugar in the form of fresh orange juice, boiled down until it’s concentrated, which then becomes the main flavor in the recipe’s vinaigrette. The juice also helps to lighten up the dressing — you need less oil when one of your other ingredients is as thick and flavorful as concentrated orange juice. And by the way, grapefruit juice, which is slightly more tart than orange juice, works equally well.
In an effort to cut down on the preparation time for this recipe, I’ve called for a store-bought creole or jerk spice mix. But feel free to conjure up your own. As long as it includes ground chipotle or hot paprika or cayenne, you’ll win.
SPICY SHRIMP WITH HEARTS OF PALM, AVOCADO AND ORANGE SALAD
Start to finish: 1 hour 40 minutes (40 active)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably grapeseed, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Jamaican jerk seasoning, creole seasoning or your favorite spicy seasoning
1 pound jumbo (16-20) peeled and deveined shrimp
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 cups torn butter lettuce
1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and patted dry, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
1 large Haas avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 medium oranges, peeled and cut into segments
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds (toasted in a 350 F oven until golden, 6 to 8 minutes)
In a large bowl stir together 1 tablespoon of the oil and the jerk seasoning; add the shrimp and toss well to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Heat the grill to medium.
In a small saucepan simmer the orange juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Transfer to a small bowl; add the salt, mustard and vinegar and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
Thread the shrimp on skewers and grill, turning them over once, about 2 minutes a side.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the lettuce, hearts of palm, avocado and orange segments. Add 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss well.
To serve, divide the salad among 4 plates, top with the shrimp and sunflower seeds; drizzle with the remaining dressing.
Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories; 209 calories from fat; 23 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 143 mg cholesterol; 1,189 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 10 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 21 g protein.