In the finale to my Summer of Salads adventure, I thought some kind of celebration was in order. Since a cake salad would be rather silly (even though I did spend some time thinking of a possibility haha), I decided to look at a perpetually celebratory region: Louisiana. One of the signature dishes of Louisiana, jambalaya, lends itself wonderfully to the “salad treatment.”
Traditionally, jambalaya has sausage and chicken (or a bunch of other meats if you go into rural regions), the “holy trinity” of vegetables: onions, celery and bell peppers, as well as shrimp and rice.
I could have done a rice salad, but I have been toying with the idea of making crispy croutons out of compressed rice for awhile. Compressed rice, or Nasi Impit in Malaysia, is made by cooking rice in so much water that it goes mushy and is easily mashed. The mash is then pressed in a mould and chilled to set. It is then cut into cubes and served alongside traditional dishes like rendang (a spicy beef coconut stew) or with satay skewers and spicy peanut sauce.
Today, the crouton accents a mixture of onion, bell pepper and celery leaves, along with shredded chicken, julienne sausage and quick cooked shrimp. The dressing was a simple vinaigrette spiked with a homemade Creole spice and garlic oil.
For the Compressed Rice:
2 cups water
1/2 cup long grain rice
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp salt
In a small pot, add the water, rice, sage and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is very tender and most of the water is absorbed (about 12-15 minutes). Remove the sage leaves and discard. Transfer the cooked rice to a food processor and pulse a few times to purée with chunks remaining. Place the purée into a small container lined with cheesecloth (muslin), top with another sheet of cheesecloth, pressing down to make an even, flat top and chill in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Cut 1/4 of it into 2cm/1″ cubes and set aside. Reserve the rest for another use, like dipping in hot sauce as a snack. Yum!…or wait a few days, I have another idea in mind. I do love to create with leftovers 😉
For the Creole Vinaigrette:
1/4 tsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp Creole Spice Mix (recipe below or use a commercial cajun seasoning if you like, just leave out the salt in this vinaigrette recipe if you do)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup garlic oil (or regular cold pressed canola oil)
1/2 tsp salt
In a blender or food processor, grind the flax seeds into a powder. Add the vinegar and oil and purée to combine. Add the Creole Spice Mix and salt and stir to combine. Set aside.
For the Creole Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 Tbsp mild chili powder
2 Tbsp dry oregano leaves
1 tsp salt
In a spice grinder, grind the cumin, mustard, celery seeds and black peppercorns. Add to a large bowl and add the garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, salt and oregano. Stir until uniformly combined. Keep in an airtight container for up to a month. It’s a great all purpose spice mix, but is especially good in Creole/Cajun style dishes.
For the salad:
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
80g/3 oz garlic sausage, cut into strips
1 sweet bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
1/4 cup celery leaves (or fresh lovage leaves)
150g/6 oz shrimp (I used a 16-20 size, often called “jumbo shrimp”), tails removed, deveined and sliced in half along its length
Reserved Creole Vinaigrette
Reserved Compressed Rice cubes
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, sausage, bell pepper, onion, celery leaves and Creole Vinaigrette. Allow to marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 10 minutes.
In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tsp cold pressed canola oil and fry the compressed rice cubes until golden on all sides (about 3-4 minutes total). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
In the same skillet, add the shrimp and cook until lightly pink on both sides (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
Add the cooked shrimp to the marinating veggies, chicken and sausage. Toss with your fingers to combine. Divide the mixture over two plates and scatter some of the crispy compressed rice “croutons” over the top of each salad. Serves 2.
Thank you to everyone for reading my Summer of Salads adventure. It’s been mostly fun with only a bit of stress on the really hot days of summer. It was a challenge to my creativity at times, but I just focused on the fact that so many fruits and veggies came into season at different points in the summer season that the stress got less and less as I went along.
I also recently surpassed the 100 follower mark on my blog. That’s amazing to me and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read what I share and comment in one way or another. Thanks again for sharing this space with me. I’ll be sharing new adventures on this blog with occasional themes for stretches of time again. Stay tuned for more everyday cooking fun! 🙂