For Eric Ripert, a salad can be an anything goes experience... So long as it's small.
"I don't generally eat a salad as my only course," Ripert, chef and owner of the famed three Michelin star Le Bernardin restaurant in New York, said in an e-mail interview. "Therefore a salad, for me, is part of a meal. I love plain green salads — anything goes, arugula, bibb, Boston, watercress, mache, etc. But I also sometimes like the salad to be composed, but it has to be small.
"A salad is for me the opening of a meal."
Salads even can open the eyes of a young boy.
"Salad nicoise made with canned tuna in olive oil, basically the real deal, reminds me of my childhood in Nice," he said. "I also remember eating at about age 13 a baby spinach salad covered with thin slices of foie gras which was out of this world."
So for AP's 20 Salads of Summer series, Ripert offered a recipe he created while visiting Vietnam. It blends crunchy, tart green papaya with shrimp and calamari, then dresses everything with fresh mint and cilantro and a splash of lime juice and pungent fish sauce.
Green Papaya Salad With Shrimp & Calamari
1/2 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large green papaya, peeled, seeded and julienned (unripe mango can be substituted)
1 small carrot, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint, julienned
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, julienned
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Fine sea salt and ground black pepper
10 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
10 ounces small calamari tubes, cleaned and sliced into rings
In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and olive oil. Add the green papaya, carrot, scallions, jalapeno, mint, cilantro, then toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the salad sit and marinate for at least 5 minutes.
While the salad marinates, in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, then add to the skillet and sear the shrimp for 1 to 2 minutes per side side. Transfer the shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil to the skillet and return it to the heat. When the oil is very hot, add the calamari. Season with salt and pepper, then quickly toss to cook the calamari until they are just barely opaque, about 2 minutes.
Add the shrimp and calamari to the salad and gently toss to coat. Divide the salad between 4 plates and serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 337 calories; 167 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 19g fat (2g saturated; 0g trans fats); 291mg cholesterol; 14g carbohydrate; 28g protein; 1g fiber; 445mg sodium.