Sometimes recipes take you by surprise; you think they’re going to taste one way, they wind up tasting another way and you wind up liking that other way better.
With the fattoush recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, I was expecting crispy pieces of pita bread tossed with pretty typical Israeli salad vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.), yogurt, olive oil and lemon juice. Instead, you use naan (or stale Turkish flatbread, if you can find that) and don’t toast it at all. You toss that with a yogurt mixture before making the salad and what happens next is so special, I’m not going to describe it in this paragraph. You’ll just have to click ahead (unless you came to this post directly, in which case this moment is…awkward.)
Jicama, when you buy it, looks and feels like a small planet. It’s big, it’s round, it’s hard. I almost put it back and thought about using something else as a first course for my friend Diana’s birthday dinner (during which I served a Smoky Beef Chili; that’s the next post) but the Jicama Mango salad I chose from a Rick Bayless cookbook was too perfect a choice to reject because of a big, scary jicama. So I brought the jicama home and turned to Twitter for advice.
You know how people say “pretty please with a cherry on top?” but the visual you get, from that request, is of an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and whipped cream? From now on, I want you to think about salad. Because cherries taste really good in salad. No, not cherries from a jar, I’m talking about cherries that show up, in season (like: now) at the farmer’s market. Look at the cherries in the picture above (which I procured from the West Hollywood farmer’s market) and tell me you’re not craving cherries. Well, crave them in salad.
There’s egg salad with mayo, which is just normal egg salad, and then there’s another kind of egg salad, a healthier person’s egg salad, an egg salad that may make egg salad traditionalists recoil in horror: egg salad with yogurt.
Well, think about it. Yogurt (especially low-fat Greek yogurt) is healthy. Eggs are pure protein. Combine the two and bam: you have a tasty alternative to the gloppy mayo-rich egg salad your grandmother used to eat by the spoonful. The yogurt adds a unique tang and binds things together in a way that almost makes you forget the mayo. Almost.
When you get back from a weekend of binging in Las Vegas, you might find that you really crave salad. Not the wimpy kind with delicate garden lettuces, but a big bowl of raw vegetables that promises to cure all your ills. If you were a cheffy chef your first instinct might be to go to the farmer’s market to gather up your vegetables. If it’s Saturday night, though, chances are you’re too late for a farmer’s market. So you have two options: go to a restaurant that serves a big farmer’s market salad or make a salad from supermarket vegetables. Me? I’m the master of the latter.
Look, let’s be honest, I make a really good radicchio salad. That may not mean much to most people because radicchio isn’t one of those vegetables that gets anyone excited. It’s bitter. It’s red. It’s red and bitter. What’s the big deal? Well: I like to serve it before a big, heavy dinner to wake up the palate–sort of like a vegetable Negroni. Only my vegetable Negroni has anchovies and garlic in it. So, actually, let’s forget that Negroni bit and focus on how I make it.
I’m starting to enjoy blank canvas foods like quinoa and farro and cous cous. (Autocorrect just tried to change that to “cous cows.”) The fun comes from dressing them up, like a Christmas tree or an Oscar nominee on Oscar night. The more ingredients you know to add to the mix, the more fun you can have. In all three cases, similar ingredients will work so what follows is a list of stuff you can stir into the mix to make things interesting and exciting and part of a wholesome weeknight dinner.