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This shrimp and bean salad offers high reward for little effort

August 15, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.
Shrimp and White Bean Salad With Pesto. (Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle.)

All summer long I live what I call my salad bar lifestyle, meaning most of my dinners are some carefree combination of chilled dishes, pulled together from whatever is in the kitchen. A meal might include leftover steamed green beans tossed with toasted nuts and radicchio in a mustardy vinaigrette; a big, juicy heirloom tomato turned in to Caprese salad with slices of fresh mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of good olive oil; a plate of grilled zucchini and peppers sprinkled with za'atar; a toss of corn, avocado and black beans with lime and a handful of fresh herbs; and/or a smear of hummus topped with chickpeas and a dusting of sumac, to name a few.

A simple green salad and some warm bread are usually on the table, too. I plan these meals out just enough so I have the basics on hand, but leave plenty of room for whimsy. The only prerequisite is that they are all easily pulled together.

This dish is in regular rotation on my summer salad circuit. I almost always have the ingredients on hand - shrimp and pesto in the freezer, a can of beans on the shelf and a few produce staples - all of which come together in a luscious, elegant, protein-rich plate.

I might boil the shrimp in advance, so it's ready in the fridge (and great to nibble on with cocktail sauce). But if I am feeling especially lackadaisical, I buy cooked shrimp, which then only needs to be tossed with the tender white beans, a crunch of finely diced celery and onion, and the herbaceous pesto and lemon dressing. To make it extra fancy, I nest the salad into lettuce leaves and top it with fresh basil.

Served as is, with crusty bread or as part of a larger spread, this no-cook dish offers so much goodness for so little effort. And that's what the salad bar lifestyle is all about.

Shrimp and White Bean Salad With Pesto

4 to 6 servings (makes about 6 cups)

Total time: 15 mins

Storage: The shrimp salad can be prepared and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

1 lemon

1 pound cooked medium shrimp (31-40 per pound), tails removed (see Note)

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large stalk celery, finely diced

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto, homemade or store-bought

1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

8 to 12 large Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves

1/4 cup fresh basil leaf, cut into chiffonade

Finely grate 1 teaspoon of zest from the lemon, then cut the lemon in half. Juice one half of the lemon to get 2 tablespoons of juice. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges.

In a large bowl, toss together the shrimp, beans, celery, onion, pesto, lemon zest and juice, and salt and toss to combine. Taste, and season with additional salt, if desired, and black pepper to taste.

To serve, arrange 2 lettuce leaves on each plate. Top each with about 1 cup of the shrimp salad, then garnish with the basil leaves and lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Note: You can buy cooked shrimp, or cook them yourself. To boil shrimp, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the shrimp turn pink and curled, 2 to 3 minutes. Slice one shrimp open to ensure it is opaque throughout, then drain, spread out and let cool. (The cooking time will vary with the size of the shrimp.)

Nutrition Per serving (about 1 cup salad), based on 6: 136 calories, 8g carbohydrates, 122mg cholesterol, 4g fat, 2g fiber, 18g protein, 1g saturated fat, 283mg sodium, 1g sugar

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