My ‘California cool’ salad

The week I went to college I asked my dad to take photos of me with my 1972 Bronco...oh priorities!
The week before college I asked my dad to take photos of me with my 1972 Bronco…oh priorities!

My first week as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill I stopped by a local sandwich spot and ordered a turkey on wheat. Add avocado.

“That’ll cost you extra,” the server said.

“That’s ok, it’s worth it,” I said.

“Let me guess, you’re from California,” he responded.

I was taken aback. Was it my valley girl accent that gave me away? Or my laid-back, west coast vibe? Was my sandwich so stereotypically “Californian” that it was that obvious? I think he made a lucky guess, since I’ve met many a Southerner who loves a good guacamole. But yes, we Californians try to sneak avocados into every meal.


This spicy-cool salad is simple to make, but complex on the palate. The dressing will leave your tongue tingling and the cucumber will refresh it. I adapted the recipe from this genius blogger (I love her cookbook!) and have continued to modify it for different occasions.

I spread it over slices of French bread for a picnic. I ladled it over pasta for dinner. I think it would be perfect with soba noodles or in lettuce cups. Delete the shrimp and it’s vegetarian. Switch out the shrimp for chicken and add black beans for a Mexican twist. The possibilities are endless.

Cucumber and shrimp…
…add avocado, cilantro, scallions…
…and then the dressing.

California cool salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 seedless cucumber or a cucumber with its seeds removed via the spoon method
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp (I thawed some frozen shrimp I had on hand)
  • 2 scallions
  • Handful of of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons of hot sauce (Siracha recommended, I use Cholula)
  • Juice from one-half lime

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the cucumber and cut it into small cubes. After peeling and pitting the avocado, cut it into similar-sized cubes. (Does anyone use this?). Also cut the shrimp into similar-sized cubes. Chop the white and light green scallion parts. Add the cilantro leaves and toss everything together.

For the dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, hot sauce and lime juice. Keep adding hot sauce until it is to your liking. If it is too spicy, add a little more mayonnaise. Toss with the salad and serve.

I served it over cooled fettuccine for dinner. Parfait!

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