Watermelon and Red Onion Salad With Bibb Lettuce, Pickled Shrimp, and Jalapeño Vinaigrette From 'Heritage'

Watermelon and Red Onion Salad With Bibb Lettuce, Pickled Shrimp, and Jalape\u00f1o Vinaigrette From 'Heritage'

[Photograph: Peter Frank Edwards]

I know, this salad screams summer, and most of us are already slurping down pumpkin lattes and hot soup. But warm weather will come again, and when that first watermelon pops up at the market, you'll know what to do. Chef Sean Brock's salad from his new book, Heritage, hits all the right notes: the melon is sweet and juicy, the onions are bracing, the vinaigrette is spicy and tangy, and the pickled shrimp are...all of the above. They are the stars of this show, and beneath their overt pickliness (can that be a word?), they're masterfully spiced and complexly flavored. Brock serves them on their own as a bar snack at Husk, but they really shine with the mellowing, balancing effects of the fruit and dressing here. The components of the salad come together in a way that is simply perfect.

Why I picked this recipe: I love watermelon with salty pairings, and I'd never pickled my own shrimp.

What worked: The balance of flavors is lovely. The vinaigrette, of which you'll have plenty leftover, is light, lively, and, as it happens, delicious over fish.

What didn't: This was obviously not the recipe's fault, but just a heads-up: some of my Gulf shrimp were horribly iodine-y, which was amplified by the pickling, resulting in bites that tasted exactly like floor cleaner.

Suggested tweaks: Don't try to tell yourself that pickling may neutralize/cover up an iodine taste in your shrimp; learn from my mistake, and give them a good sniff before you buy them. (And note that the pickled shrimp need to cure for at least 2 days.) To take this salad into the colder months, I think suprémes of an orange would sub in very nicely for the watermelon here.

  • Yield:Serves 6 as an appetizer or a light lunch
  • Active time: 45 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour 30 minutes plus 2 days pickling


  • Pickled Shrimp
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp (16–20 count), peeled and deveined
  • Jalapeño Vinaigrette
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
  • Grated zest of 1 lime (use a Microplane)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce, separated into leaves, washed, and patted dry
  • 1 small ripe watermelon, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small red onion, shaved paper-thin and held in ice water


  1. 1.

    For the shrimp: Put all of the ingredients except the shrimp in a medium stainless steel or enameled pot, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the shrimp. Allow the shrimp to poach in the pickling liquid, uncovered, until they turn pink and begin to curl, about 15 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Remove the shrimp and refrigerate. Pour the pickling liquid into a sterilized glass or stainless steel container and let cool to room temperature.

  3. 3.

    Return the shrimp to the pickling liquid, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 days to cure. (Tightly covered, the shrimp will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.)

  4. 4.

    For the vinaigrette: Put the peppers, lime zest, lime juice, sugar, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. With the blender running, slowly add the oils and blend to emulsify.

  5. 5.

    To complete: Put the lettuce in a large bowl and gently toss it with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves. Divide the lettuce, shrimp, and watermelon cubes among six salad bowls or plates. Garnish each with the sliced red onion.

    Note The recipe makes more vinaigrette than you will need for this dish, but it will keep, tightly covered, for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Whisk, or shake if stored in a jar, before using.