We’ve all been there. You get to the farmers market and it’s so beautiful and inspiring and you want this and that and the other. Everything is so gorgeous… but where do you start??
I collabed with Quiddity on a short video on how to shop the farmers market. Here’s my shopping strategy, and how I use my market haul to make a dish.
Though farmers markets can be a little overwhelming at first, remember that seasonal, local cooking is actually quite easy. If they grow together, they go together. Chances are, crops that come into season around the same time will naturally pair with one another on the plate.
Secondly, the ingredients are so good, you don’t need to do much. The best way to honor your ingredients is to prepare simply and then get out of the way.
And that’s what I did with my spring radish salad with aged Havarti, creamy horseradish dressing, and cru-tons. I left the beautiful lettuces and cheese as-is. I left the bread unadorned and untoasted so you can fully appreciate the texture (and use it to sop up the dressing).
Because this dish was an ode to radish, I showcased it in three different preparations: raw, roasted, and pickled. Roasting brings out the radish’s sweetness and earthiness. Pickling draws out the spiciness. And raw is like the flawless no-makeup selfie — the radish is naturally beautiful thankyouverymuch.
Finally, I made a simple dressing that amplified and unified the flavors already in the salad. This horseradish dressing is creamy (to give heft to the leaves and unify them with the heartier radishes, cheese, and bread), sweet (to balance out the bitterness of the radishes and greens), and spicy (to alert our tastebuds to the subtle spiciness of the spring radish).
You might be tempted to eat this salad with your hands, savoring each ingredient one by one. Do it! That’d be the ultimate way of honoring these great spring offerings.
CREAMY HORSERADISH DRESSING
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup kefir yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish (depending on how potent your horseradish is)
1 ½ teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle onto salad just before serving.
There’s an important scene in Food Whore where Tia is feeling lost. Her personal life and secret life with Michael Saltz are starting to clash and she’s not sure how she'll sort it out.
Her friend asks her to grab a bite and they go to a nice-ish deli near Washington Square Park. You know, one of the ones with a decent salad bar. As she’s thinking, she absent-mindedly adds items to her container: arugula, tuna, mustard, olives… until she makes an accidental Salade Niçoise.
“I mixed and tasted and went back for other ingredients until the tuna salad was near perfect. It was filling and bracing and pickled. It didn’t taste like bodega food at all. The simple act of cooking and tasting calmed me like nothing else.”
Surprise, surprise, I also love Salade Niçoise. The appeal is its remarkable harmony. Every player is assertive: fragrant tuna, briny olives, meaty haricot verts, plush hard-boiled eggs, spicy arugula. And yet together, they harmonize. The salad surely doesn’t need cheese or bacon, both auto-tune for salad, ways to increase tastiness by masking the ingredients. This is hearty and flavorful, with each component keeping its integrity.
In my mind, the defining characteristics of a Salade Niçoise are: boiled potatoes, blanched haricot verts, Niçoise olives, hard-boiled eggs, and high-quality tuna. Other people may want to put anchovy in there, but to me, olives and tuna add enough saltiness. Once you have those ingredients, you can really play around with the rest. The recipe below doesn’t have precise proportions -- just mix and match, salad-bar-bodega style.
Dressing: Using a mortar and pestle, grind three cloves of garlic with one tablespoon of salt until pasty. Add to a bowl along with ⅓ cup of olive oil, 1 minced shallot, the juice of 2 lemons, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and black pepper to taste. Whisk and set aside.
Boiled Components: If you have the time, you might as well cook everything in the same pot of boiling water (as opposed to having three pots at once, which is somewhat wasteful and adds a lot of unnecessary heat to your kitchen -- critical if you’re making this in the summer).
Add water to a large saucepan and heavily salt. Bring to a boil. Add purple potatoes and four eggs. After 7-10 minutes (depending on how you like your eggs), remove the eggs and cool them off in a bowl of ice water. Add trimmed haricot verts and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and add to another bowl of ice water. Check potatoes with a fork -- the cooking time depends on the size. Remove when a fork easily slips in, with no “crunch” sound.
Before you assemble, cut the eggs in halves or quarters. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
Tomatoes - I like Kumato because they’re sweet and not too tart. But any tomato will do. Cut into wedges.
Cucumber - English or mini. You want a compact cucumber that isn’t too watery.
Olives - I used oil-cured black olives because they are one of my favs. But Niçoise olives are the classic.
Herbs - scallions, basil, chervil
Microgreens - here, I used mustard micro greens
Pickled Cipollini Onions
On a large plate, arrange a bed of arugula. Add your other ingredients. Top with high-quality olive oil-packed tuna. My favorite is this yellowfin tuna from Ortiz. You can buy it at Whole Foods or Zingermans. (True, you can’t find imported Spanish tuna at a bodega salad bar. But just go with it.)
Drizzle with dressing and serve.
I make this salad all year round. Take some English cucumbers, slice them up with a mandolin, or a spiralizer, or even (!) a knife. Salt them to release their moisture. Sometimes I'll cut into matchsticks. Or sometimes, I'll add soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Other times, yogurt.
But for summer, I'm of the opinion less is more. Just the extra crunch and water of fennel. A touch of dill. And few grinds of pepper. This is great as a condiment (on your burger, say), or just on its own. So easy and good.
RECIPE: Mandolin one long English cucumber and one bulb of fennel. Salt liberally with 1 1/2 tablespoons of table salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, then squeeze out all water. Dress with 3 tablespoons of white vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil, and dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2-3.
Did you think that spaghetti squash always had to be that consistency? The softness of canned Spaghetti-Os? (I'm not hating!)
Well... it doesn't. This was a revelation when my brother's girlfriend once brought this to a holiday dinner -- a spaghetti squash salad, with strands that crunched. How did she do it? Were the strands deep-fried? Dehydrated? No... they're just undercooked. Easy as that.
The original dish has scallions, but I used ramps because 'tis the season. This would be great as a picnic dish -- it's hearty, but clean and fresh.
Bring one large pot of water to a boil. Seed and cut spaghetti squash into 1.5" x 1.5" sections. Add to boiling water. The water will cool off. Leave in the water until the water boils for about 30 seconds (about 3-5 minutes). The spaghetti squash should still be hard (you should be able to insert a fork, but it should crunch, not sink, into the flesh). Soak the spaghetti squash in ice water to stop cooking. Once cool, scrape out strands and place in bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and let sit for 5 minutes. Then squeeze out all the water with your hands.
In a frying pan, saute chopped ramps in sesame oil. Once fragrant, add to spaghetti squash. Serve warm, cold, or room temperature.
At The Bazaar by José Andrés, you can get all sorts of food somersaults. I love me some culinary acrobatics, but for home, I prefer something a little more down-to-earth.
This came in an endive boat, but if you don't want to feel like you're at a cocktail party, just chop up the endives. It's sweet, bitter, creamy and a little piquant, depending on how many scallions you use.
RECIPE: Slice four endives into 1/2 inch rings and place in large mixing bowl. Separate leaves. Supreme two oranges (or tangerines for a punchier fragrance) and toss with endives. Chop 1-2 scallions and add to bowl. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, rice vinegar, the excess juice from the oranges' core and peel, and a dash of mustard. Toss with salad then add toasted sliced almonds and feta cheese, to taste.
Susur Lee makes this insane slaw that's often said to have 19 ingredients. It actually has over 30, if you count all the components that make the components.
In my book, that makes this salad true restaurant food. Even though there's barely any cooking (as defined by applying heat to comestibles), there's a whole lot of prep. An impressive amount, if you eat it while dining out. A masochistic amount of prep, if you're dining in.
And yet. I had this dish more than five years ago at the now-shuttered Shang*, and I'm still thinking about it. It's a chaotic mix of flavors and textures, more cacophonous Asian night market than Brooklyn farmer's market. It's Asian without relying on easy shorthands of soy and sesame.
I make a salad almost everyday, and was cursing the fact that I spent so much time on this. But the truth is: you can taste the difference.
Here's the full recipe, if you're jonesin' for a challenge. My version is way abbreviated, definitely inferior, but a delicious addition to your dinner table.
Quick Pickled Onions: Using a mandoline, slice two red onions. Add to bowl and add one heaping tablespoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar. Cover with vinegar and let rest for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
Salad: Get slicing. The upside is that you'll get to practice all your knife skills. The key here is to choose veggies of varying bite and juiciness. Cut for visual and mouthfeel contrast. I used: bean sprouts, snow peas, jicima, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, scallions, mint and basil. Other ideas: raw beets, napa cabbage, radish, chayote.
Crispies: Slice and deep-fry shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Drain on paper towels. Toast peanuts and sesame seeds.
Dressing: Mix pickled ginger, fish sauce, rice vinegar, a little bit of the oil from the crispies, and a little bit of the pickling juice from the onions.
Now, mix everything together, making sure to add that crispies at the last moment so they stay...crunchy.
* Shang is actually featured in BAD TASTE. The fictitious restaurant Panh Ho is a cross between Shang and SHO Shaun Hergatt (both shuttered, I'm afraid).
I always want things like this, but they're frustratingly hard to find. What is "this"?
"This" is a great post-workout meal -- Fresh and crunchy and satisfying. "Hearty" salads tend to have cream or cheese, which slam the gut. The key is enough protein (here, chicken breast), the body of an aromatic oil (sesame oil in this case), and some support from some nuts (almonds and black sesame seeds, above). See, no sluggishness!
"This" is not a flimsy salad --I'll take slaw over salad any day. A great salad is a revelation -- gossamer lettuce as silken as rose petals, dressing of elegance and subtlety, toppings that play nice while still adding textural, visual, and flavor contrast. But salads are hard to balance because the leaves are so delicate. Slaws are easy. Make it with cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots -- anything with bite. They'll withstand anything you throw its way.
"This" is nostalgic -- Remember the "Oriental Chicken Salad"? Oh, it was a confusing piece of work -- canned mandarin oranges, fried chow mein noodles, and a honey mustard mayo-based dressing made "Asian" with rice vinegar and sesame oil. I loved this salad, but it could bear to be less gross.
RECIPE: Slice Napa cabbage and salt generously. Saute chicken in olive oil and let rest once done. Dice carrots, red bell pepper, and scallions and add to cabbage. Add chicken, then soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Before serving, toss with sliced almonds and sesame seeds.
Is it just me, but did the rise of kale come really quickly? Not too long ago, I thought of kale as a difficult vegetable, an ornamental and sturdy plant that had to be stewed for hours. And who wants to eat gray-green sulfurous greens? Now of course, people eat kale not only on its own, but also as crackers, salads, pesto. Kale is the "green" in "green juice", the counterweight to the equally beloved bacon.
And now one of the most intimidating features of kale -- the stiff, structured ruffles -- are now a selling point.
I like to make a creamy sauce that catches inside all the nooks and crannies. Tofu adds body and umami, without the negating effect cream tends to add to salad. Recently at Thistle Hill Tavern, I had buffalo cauliflower and kale salad with slaw dressing. This is my middle ground.
RECIPE: Wash and dice kale into bite-size pieces. Melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter and add to blender. Add one block of tofu, 2 teaspoons of Frank's hot sauce, and a pinch of salt. Blend into dressing mix with kale salad.
Summer in NYC is not normal, both in the "regular" and "consistent" sense of the word, and in also in the "standard" and "expected" sense of the word.
You might spend a day sunning dreamily in Prospect Park, then in a disturbingly balmy and fragrant subway platform. You might spend two days on the beach, then five days in a freezing office.
Many New Yorkers leave the city on the weekends, true. And sometimes the city can feel pleasantly sparse. Until you hit all the summer tourists.
This dish's ingredients say summer -- corn, basil, tomatoes. But the preparation says something else -- it's deep and charred and moody. It's NYC in the summer.
RECIPE: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mandolin one red onion. Slice kernels from one ear of corn. Drop in two handfuls of grape tomatoes. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 40 minutes, until tomatoes burst and the veggies char. I use this stoneware tray that retains heat.
Take out of the oven and put in bowl. Add pesto and chopped parsley. Serves 1 as the main attraction, 2 as a side.
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