In addition to anything spicy, Matt is a huge caesar salad fan. I've done regular caesars, grilled chicken caesars, and shrimp caesars. I think I have landed on my favorite caesar variation with this salad.
First, as it must be known, I am not usually a fan of pre-blended spices. I most often find them to be dominant of a single ingredient, with no depth, and overly salty. However, I order most of my spices from Penzey's. In addition to the solo ingredients' awesome quality, they do a lot of their business with blends. Some of their blends include salt, but at a level I would normally use to season something, and it is not the dominant taste, just there to do its job as a booster.
A glorious thing about Penzey's is that when you receive an order, they throw in a freebie sample of something. Usually it is one of their spice blends. I'm a little skeptical of their Pizza Seasoning (not sure if I like the balance yet), but was very intrigued by the freebie of Southwest Seasoning. Due to its depth of flavor and slight touch of heat I thought applying it to shrimp would be a good bet in trying it out, but still tasting the shrimp. The blend has three different hot peppers in it (ancho, cayenne, and chipotle), a nice herbal flavor thanks to oregano and cilantro, a touch of cumin, sweet paprika, black pepper and alliums round out the blend. I also had some bread going stale so I thought I would make croutons. So, croutons, shrimp...Salad!
The croutons are how I remember watching my mom make them from when I was little. On a day she made croutons, I had one mission...steal as many from the plate as possible for snacking before she notices. These croutons are perfect and no store-bought crouton can hold a candle. I did however have to call her to check on her method, because I thought, "no, it can't be that simple". But it is. Put a little olive oil in a skillet. Throw in a few garlic cloves, turn a couple times while cooking over medium heat until golden. Meanwhile, cut old bread into cubes of desired size. Discard garlic cloves. Throw bread cubes into pan, turn over when first side is browned. When second side is browned, remove to drain on a couple paper towels on a plate. Ecco, Croutons.
For the shrimp, I sauteed them as I usually do. First, take raw, shelled shrimp and put into a bowl. Then add a few shakes of the Southwest Seasoning, use a spoon to move shrimp around until an even coating of the seasoning is on all shrimp. Heat a little oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Toss in shrimp, cook for a couple of minutes, turn, cook another couple of minutes. When shrimp are curled, pink, and tender, remove from pan.
For salad: split a head of romaine between two plates. Using a vegetable peeler, make shards of parmigiano and distribute over lettuce. Pour on some Caesar Dressing (we like the Whole Foods 365 Organic one). Arrange shrimp and croutons over plate. Pair with a robust and malty ale or a creamy root beer.