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Shrimp and Pasta Salad with Bacon and Capers

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Around our house, we love seafood...and we especially love shrimp! And we love pasta. And bacon! We also try to use a lot of fresh vegetables in our cooking, so this salad combination is always a winner whether served warm or chilled. Let's get to it!

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked pasta (I like to use shells, elbows, or spirals)
3 fresh Roma tomatoes, cut into small chunks
½ of a yellow onion, chopped
2 cups finely chopped fresh kale (spinach, Swiss chard, virtually any greens may be substituted)
1 cup chopped white mushrooms
2 Tablespoons capers, gently smashed
1 cup cooked shrimp, shelled (for chilled salad, chill the shrimp before adding to other ingredients)
½ cup (about 6 slices) crisp cooked bacon pieces, well drained and blotted
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 large fresh garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
¼ teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

First, let's get that pasta cooking so that if you decide to serve this salad chilled, you will have plenty of time to cool it down. Bring two quarts of water with about a teaspoon of salt added to a boil and drop in your pasta. I like to leave mine just barely under-done, so that after it sits for a while and then gets mixed with other ingredients it turns out perfectly. I really don't like mushy pasta. So time that pasta for 6-7 minutes, then strain it in a colander when the time is up. Set it aside.

While your pasta is cooking, you can fry up your bacon. I usually use about 6 slices. Cook them however you prefer your bacon, I prefer mine toward the crispy side. Remove onto a paper towel and blot well, then cut into small pieces about the size of a dime.

Now, if your shrimp is whole and/or raw, you will need to cook and peel it. Place the shrimp into a skillet whole with about ¼ cup of water and a splash of lemon juice, covering with a snug lid. Steam over high heat for just a few minutes until the shrimp turns a lovely bright pink. Remove from the hot pan and drop into a bowl of ice cubes to stop the cooking process. Over-cooked shrimp become quite rubbery in texture...we don't want that. It is very easy to twist the heads off and peel the shrimp, then set the finished shrimp aside in a bowl.

Onward to chopping! Cut up the tomatoes, onion, kale, mushrooms, and garlic and toss them together in a large bowl. I like to use a generous–sized bowl for mixing and tossing, then transfer the finished salad into a smaller pretty bowl for serving. Less messy that way. Smash the capers the same way you smashed the garlic with the side of your chef knife blade, just a little bit to release their juices so the flavor blends well throughout the salad.

Now add your bacon pieces, olive oil, paprika, basil, and a generous sprinkle of black pepper...freshly ground is always the best. Toss that all together, then add your shrimp and cooked pasta. Gently mix your whole salad and if it seems a bit too dry, feel free to drizzle on a little more olive oil . Lightly sprinkle a bit of salt over the salad and mix well. Remember, the capers and the bacon are already quite salty so tasting before you add more salt is a good idea. You can always add more salt if needed, but you can't take it out if you use too much.

Sprinkle a dash of grated Parmesan over the top before serving.

This salad makes a fabulous side dish, but can be incorporated as part of your entree' as well. Serve it warm with a grilled fillet of salmon or halibut laid on top, or simply add more shrimp to the salad itself and serve with a couple slices of crusty French bread on the side. Whichever way you choose, enjoy!

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