It is now officially spring, even if the earth hasn't entirely shaken off winter. Be that as it may, Al thinks this is a very optimistic time of the year, especially for lovers of locally grown food. One of the first things we'll be able to do is rustle up a bunch of greens and make some salads. Which is why Al and Chef Jerry Pellegrino invited their great friend Liz Nuttle to join us today.
Liz told us that with the coming of spring we do start to see salad greens appearing in the market, but only the leafy varieties. Greens that grown as a head, like lettuce, will take a month or so more to reach the market. But greens like arugula, rocket, frisée, and especially spinach will be here in abundance.
When constructing salads, recipes aren't so much a necessity as just plain imagination. Grab your favorite greens and start adding on. Here are a bunch of ideas. Protein: grilled steak, tuna, shrimp, grilled chicken, shredded hard cheese.
Herbs: chives, basil, cilantro, lemon grass, nasturtium. Veggies: radish, carrot, beets, tomato, cucumber, broccoli, peppers, avocado, corn, and all manner of roasted vegetables. Fruits: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, orange section, apples, pears, melon pieces. Dried fruits and nuts: pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, almond, cashew, walnut, pistachio, cooked brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley and soaked wheat berries.
Of course once you have the salad assembled, you have to think of the dressing, the great unifying force of the dish. Liz prefers variations on the simple and classic French vinaigrette. Here's her basic recipe.
Classic French Vinaigrette
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2-3 tbs red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a bowl combine the shallots, salt and pepper, and mustard, and mash together
with the back of a fork. Add the vinegar and whisk well. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Blend well and serve.
(Standard variation: add 1 or 2 chopped up salt-cured anchovies; or a teaspoon of minced garlic.)
Liz tells us that there are other variations, including adding a touch of preserves for sweetness. For extra umami, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce,
or soy sauce can work well. Variations on your mustard offer choices, as do variations in your olive oil.
One of Liz's favorite salads is a warm steak salad. Toss your favorite greens with your vinaigrette. Grill a small piece of tenderloin steak and fry up some crispy onions. Cut the steak into thin 1/4" slices and drop them on the greens. Sprinkle the crispy onions and top off with a poached egg. Voila, a light, healthy meal.
Another favorite is spring lettuce with walnut sherry dressing. In a blender, crack two lightly cooked (1 minute) eggs, a 1/2 cup of Sherry vinegar, a pinch of sugar, minced garlic, salt and pepper, and Dijon mustard. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, a half cup of walnut oil and a cup and a half of EVOO in thin
streams until they are well incorporated into the dressing. Serve over chopped Butterhead lettuce and one sliced up avocado.