09 July 2012

Summer Pasta Salad with Avocado, Tomatoes & Garlic Lime Shrimp

After over a week of 100+ degree days, a hot meal is on the low end of my appetizing foods scale.  I've been rocking salads, wraps and other luke-warm to cold dishes.  But after weeks of burger buns and tortillas, I  was really starting to get a hankering for pasta.  And while it does require boiling water, it does not require being served hot.  A cold pasta salad with the best flavors of summer is necessary now and again....and again, and again.......

One of my all-time favorite ways to serve shrimp is in a garlic, cilantro and lime butter sauce.  Grill those up and slather some saucy goodness on top and man, your taste buds will dance.  And while this recipe omits the butter, it retains the garlic, cilantro and lime as a marinade for the shrimp and moistening agent for the salad.  If you only have 20 minutes to get dinner together, no problem....but if you have a few hours to let the shrimp bask in the glory of the marinade, you will be even more happy with the results.  

In lieu of butter, I like fresh diced avocado for creaminess in the hot weather.  A quick skillet grill of the tomatoes makes them soft and intensifies their flavor while a little cotija adds a nice salty pop.  This could easily be made in advance and taken to a barbecue or outdoor function, and stands up great to heat.  Just hold off on stirring in the avocado until right before serving and you're good to go.

Possibly my favorite thing about this dish is how different each bite tastes.  Depending on what you skewer with your fork, you can get a completely different flavor.  The tomatoes are really the game changer here.  I will make this dish without them sometimes, but I really enjoy the pop they provide, both in appearance in taste.  

Summer Pasta Salad with Avocado, Tomato & Garlic Lime Shrimp (2 servings)
  • 1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled
  • 2 tbs cilantro
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 4 oz whole wheat penne 
  • 1 tbs cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 c whole cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • salt & pepper
  • cotija or queso fresco cheese, to garnish
Combine first four ingredients in a small dish.  Rub the shrimp well with the ingredients so that the paste coats them well.  Cover and let marinade for 2-4 hours.

To prepare dish, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to directions.  Place a large grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  When pan is hot, remove from heat and spray with non-stick.  Add tomatoes and cook, tossing every 30 seconds or so, until tomatoes are starting to brown on the outside, about 3-4 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper before the final toss.  Tip tomatoes from the pan into a large mixing bowl and set aside.  Spray the pan again with non-stick and place back on heat.  Add the shrimp and cook for about a minute each side.  While the shrimp are grilling, add 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic and 1 teaspoon lime juice to the tomatoes.  When shrimp are finished, remove pan from heat and add shrimp to the tomato bowl.  

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking process.  Add to the tomato shrimp bowl and toss all ingredients well, seasoning with additional salt and pepper if necessary.    (Take a few minutes to clean up at this point....it's not a hot dish, remember?!  Less to do after dinner....)

To finish, add the diced avocado and gently stir together.  Serve and garnish with cotija...and chili flakes, if desired!  Enjoy with a cold La Paloma.  You'll be happy the cleaning is already done after one of those!

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