What to CookSalad

A Pantry-Friendly Salad You Can Make in the Dead of Winter

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Throughout the cold-weather season, we rely on pantry ingredients like dried herbs and spice blends to transport our kitchens to a warmer place. That's why we've partnered with The Spice Hunter on bright ideas for winter salads.

Summer salads full of pristine produce are all well and good, but want to feel like a true mastermind? On a freezing January evening, throw together a bright, colorful, boldly flavored salad with ingredients from your larder.

Pantry ingredients like rice, coconut milk, curry powder, and frozen shrimp form the base for this salad.
Pantry ingredients like rice, coconut milk, curry powder, and frozen shrimp form the base for this salad. Photo by Rocky Luten

A grain salad packed with protein, like this Curry-Coconut Shrimp and Rice Salad, is the perfect place to start. It uses powerhouse ingredients that I like to keep on hand at all times (frozen shrimp, rice, curry powder, and coconut milk). These ingredients may be more familiar in a curry or rice bowl, but they’re full of salad potential. When they’re cooked and tossed with fresh ingredients, dressed with lots of citrus, and strewn with crunchy toppers, these staples become salad at its finest.

I’m a big fan of rice salads in general—they’re a blank canvas for lots of contrasting flavors and textures. The inspiration for this one comes from a coconut rice salad that I developed for Mighty Salads, as well as traditional Persian jeweled rice, which can be studded with everything from pomegranate seeds to herbs, dried fruits, and nuts.

With curried shrimp on top, this dish is extra filling, an important consideration for winter meals that you want to stick with you as you shovel snow or cuddle up under a blanket for a movie marathon (no snack breaks needed). It’s flexible, too, with ingredients that are sturdy enough to be assembled in advance and served warm or at room temperature.

All kinds of mix-ins punch up the finished salad, including coconut flakes, peanuts, and pomegranate.
All kinds of mix-ins punch up the finished salad, including coconut flakes, peanuts, and pomegranate. Photo by Rocky Luten

Here are some of the details that make this salad shine. (Hint: Borrow them for dreaming up your own cold-weather combinations.)

  • Curry powder, coconut milk, and lime juice make a simple, flavor-packed shrimp marinade. The same combination works great with fish, chicken, and pork.
  • Rice is cooked like pasta (in a big pot of salted water) so it’s fluffy and salad-ready, not sticky or gummy. It’s a tip I picked up from Sara Moulton here.
  • Pomegranates are one of the simplest, most gorgeous ways to punch up a winter salad. Follow this strategy for removing the seeds with no mess.
  • Coconut flakes frizzled in oil with curry powder and freshly grated ginger, then mixed with roasted peanuts, makes a pretty spectacular salad topper. It’s also an addictive snack, so be sure to make extra!
  • Lots and lots of lime juice and cilantro—add more than you think you need—add freshness and brightness.
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Curry-Coconut Shrimp and Rice Salad with Pomegranate and Lime

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Serves 4
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (well-stirred)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder, such as The Spice Hunter Curry Seasoning Blend
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving (from about 3 limes)
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups basmati rice, rinsed
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee, separated
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup salted, roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
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Like this recipe idea? Stay tuned for more. We've partnered with The Spice Hunter to bring you several bright ideas for winter salads. Each one highlights the way a spice—like the lively curry, featured here—can bring a dish to life, as well as smart tricks and tips to make your cold-weather salads better than ever.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Winter, Seafood