This filling, no-cook salad is perfect for hot, lazy summer days. A little Tex-Mex’ish in personality, it’s packed full of fresh ingredients: crispy-crunchy romaine, just-cut corn kernels, creamy avocado, and crumbled cotija, with shrimp and roasted pepitas to add savoriness (and keep each bite different and interesting). But the star of the salad in my opinion? The ultra smoky-spicy-sweet dressing, which enlivens every bite and adds a complexity of flavor that belies its simple prep.
A few notes: I love the sweetness and crispness of raw corn in this salad, but feel free to grill or boil the whole ears before cutting off the kernels, or cut and sauté the kernels in a skillet with a little olive oil. The other toppings are also customizable: Add fresh cherry tomatoes, change-up the cheese, swap arugula or radicchio for the romaine, or try leftover grilled chicken, pork, steak in place of the shrimp. For a vegetarian version, leave out the shrimp and add a little extra avocado, cheese, and pepitas.
To serve, you could toss everything in a bowl with the dressing, but a better, more satisfying salad-eating experience is layering everything on a big platter. This way, the toppings won’t slip and slide to the bottom of the bowl, and you won’t risk overdressed leaves. Plus, it’s really pretty this way, and even midweek meals deserve a little primp and polish. —EmilyC
For the Salad:
large head of romaine (or 2 romaine hearts), trimmed; leaves left whole if small, or halved if large
shrimp (peeled, deveined, and fully cooked, purchased fresh; or thawed from frozen)
kosher salt, plus more to taste
to 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (stripped from about 3 ears of corn)
avocados, sliced or cubed
cotija, queso fresco, or feta, crumbled into bite-sized pieces
toasted and salted pepitas
For the Vinaigrette:
toasted and salted pepitas
chipotle in adobo sauce, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a 7-ounce can)
lime juice (from 1 or 2 limes), plus more to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, sunflower, or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons
tablespoons honey, plus more to taste
full-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt, plus more to taste
(packed) cilantro leaves and stems, parsley leaves, and/or basil leaves
To make the chipotle-pepita dressing: Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender, and process until well integrated. Taste (using a small piece of the romaine) and adjust the salt, acid, and spice to your own liking. Too spicy? Add more honey or sour cream. Too sweet? Add another chipotle or adobo sauce, a little at a time. (Dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance; transfer to an airtight container, cover, and chill. If the dressing is too thick to drizzle, whisk in a small amount of warm water.)
In a small bowl, toss the shrimp in 2 tablespoons of the dressing and season with a pinch or two of salt.
To assemble salad: Arrange half of romaine on a large serving platter. Spoon some of the dressing over the leaves, as well as some of the corn, avocado, cotija, and shrimp. Season with a pinch or two of salt. Repeat with remaining lettuce, dressing, and toppings. Scatter pepitas over the top. Serve remaining dressing at the table, so everyone can add more to their liking.