Shrimp and avocado salad gets dressed up with a zippy herb sauce

DELICIOUS AND NUTRITIOUS: Shrimp and Avocado Salad With Corn and Tomatoes. Those layers of delicious, nutritious ingredients become a stage for the real star here: the sauce. Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post

I visited a Peruvian restaurant years ago to try its famous roasted chicken (which was excellent), but the dish that captivated me that night, which I have been reflecting on ever since, was the appetizer. It was half an avocado still in its peel, filled with a mound of shrimp salad studded with corn, tomatoes and onion, and smothered in the most mouthwatering cilantro-lime sauce. The sauce was different from the aji verde at the table (which, too, was excellent) - it was brighter with lots of lime and a gentle touch of heat, so there was no need to hold back spooning it over everything. I couldn't get enough of it.

Here, I turned the unforgettable flavors on that plate into a complete, stunning tower of a meal. For the creamy base layer, I unleashed the avocado from its shell, simply mashing it onto the plate, making it easy to pile high with corn, tomatoes and onion. I used cooked, fresh corn - which I am always looking to make the most of this time of year - but frozen and thawed works, too.

After seasoning that with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of salt, I topped it with four of the biggest shrimp I could find. You could, of course, boil and chill the shrimp yourself, but buying it precooked makes this dish so easy it barely counts as cooking. I try to always keep a bag of frozen cooked shrimp on hand.

Those layers of delicious, nutritious ingredients become a stage for the real star here: the sauce, which is easily made by blending handfuls of cilantro with scallion, a little serrano pepper and garlic, lime juice, a splash of vinegar, and olive oil and mayonnaise. It comes out creamy and gorgeously green, ready to be spooned over this tower of shrimp, vegetables and avocado, or just about anything else you can imagine, from simply grilled chicken, fish or vegetables to sliced tomatoes or boiled potatoes. Considering how unforgettable this sauce is, and how much you can do with it, you might want to make a double batch.

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