- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

When a chef friend mentioned that he sometimes uses tequila and lime to produce a vinaigrette sauce for seafood, I was intrigued. I thought I had made every version imaginable of this classic sauce.

Visiting his restaurant kitchen a few weeks later, I mentioned the sauce and asked the chef if he would share the recipe. He agreed but explained that although he had a basic formula for the vinaigrette, like many professional chefs, he didn’t have a detailed recipe. He suggested we make the sauce together, so I quickly pulled out a pencil and notepad.

Nothing could have been simpler. We started with freshly squeezed lime juice and zest, then poured in tequila and olive oil. For seasonings, we added salt, hot red pepper flakes and a smashed garlic clove. After letting the sauce stand a few minutes, we discarded the garlic and whisked in chopped cilantro.

I knew that this new vinaigrette, with its cool, refreshing taste, would become part of my summer salad repertoire, and I envisioned a dish showcasing it. I would thread shrimp and sea scallops alternately on skewers, grill them, then brush the lightly charred seafood with some of the special dressing.

For serving, the skewers would be placed atop mounds of red-leaf lettuce tossed in the same vinaigrette.

I served the salad to two of my assistants for lunch. They were enthralled with the bright, crisp flavors the lime and tequila produced, and they pointed out that the dish was fairly low in fat, an extra bonus.

Now I’m planning to make this salad the centerpiece of a light summer supper and will serve it with icy-cold cucumber soup and crusty baguettes. A lemon sorbet (purchased from a local ice-cream store) and fresh berries will complete the menu. With many hot days of summer ahead, I think this will be the first of many times I’ll put out my tequila for cooking rather than mixing margaritas.

Grilled shrimp and scallop salad with Matt’s tequila lime vinaigrette


3 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons tequila

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed

2 teaspoons chopped cilantro


small red onion, thinly sliced

1 medium head red-leaf lettuce, cleaned and dried


Vegetable oil for oiling grill

16 large to extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails left on

16 medium to large sea scallops, side muscles removed and scallops patted dry

1 lime, halved crosswise


8 metal or wooden skewers (if using bamboo, soak in water for 15 minutes before using)

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together lime juice and zest, olive oil, tequila, salt and pepper flakes in a small nonreactive bowl. Add the smashed garlic clove and let dressing stand 30 minutes. Remove and discard garlic. (Dressing can be prepared 1 day ahead to this point; bring to room temperature before continuing.) At serving time, stir in cilantro. Makes about cup.

For the salad, reserve 3 tablespoons vinaigrette for brushing on shrimp and scallops. Put remainder in bottom of a salad bowl. Add red onion. Tear lettuce leaves into large pieces to yield 8 loosely packed cups and add to bowl with onion but do not toss.

Oil a grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature). Alternately skewer 2 shrimp and 2 scallops on each of 8 skewers.

When grill is ready, add skewered seafood and grill until shrimp turn pink and scallops are opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcook or shrimp and scallops will become tough.

Remove skewers to a platter and brush with reserved vinaigrette. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the seafood and season with salt.

Toss salad and divide among 4 dinner plates. Slice remaining lime half thinly. Arrange two seafood skewers on top of each salad and garnish each with a lime slice.

Makes 4 servings.


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