East Meets West: Salads, I Wish It Were That Easy

Good morning everyone,

Today we’re tackling a couple of salads and a vinaigrette dressing from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  The three recipes, from page 162 are Mache with Baby Beets and Walnuts, Mixed Baby Lettuce Salad and Orange Raspberry Vinaigrette.

These salads are already vaishno so the challenge today will be to add some fusion flavours and/or alter the recipes so that we can make them with ingredients available in our northern Canadian town.  I thought this would be easy but it really wasn’t as easy as I first thought.  First, Rosso and Lukins describe mache as “light or deep green; delicate, sweet-nutty taste; may be very sandy, wash well; very perishable”.  Not available here.  Walnut oil – bwahahaha, good luck with that.  Baby beets – available here in cans (yuck).  Tarragon vinegar – not available unless I make it myself.  Red oak leaf lettuce – not available here.  Green oak leaf lettuce – not available here unless I want to pick them out of the pre-cut, pre-mixed mesclun blend at the supermarket.  Lollo Rosso lettuce – not available.  Edible flowers – it’s freakin’ April, are you kidding me?  Raspberry vinegar – have not been able to find it here.  You can see the challenge, so our versions are really going to be more “inspired by” than true adaptations but they are part of the project so they must be tackled.

Seriously – who knew there were so many varieties of lettuce on the planet?  I have the following salad greens available – iceberg, romaine, watercress (sometimes), radicchio, mesclun (which is a mixture and available sometimes),  endive, chinese cabbage, red and green cabbage, spinach, kale and arugula.

Our versions are going to be: Spinach Salad with Beets and Walnuts; Mesclun, Watercress and Radicchio Salad and Orange Vinaigrette with Fresh Raspberry Puree.

Spinach Salad with Beets and Walnuts

I love beets, love them.  Pickled or fresh, it doesn’t matter, beets are awesome and full of good things.  However the original recipe called for baby beets, walnut oil, tarragon vinegar and mache, none of which are available where I live.  We think we’ve come up with some reasonable alternatives though, after lots of research.  What the heck is mache?

The original recipe makes two dinner sized salads so we tried to keep it to that.

Ingredients
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 medium sized beets, rinsed well
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbls vinegar
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tbls fresh chives, chopped fine
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
4 cups baby spinach, trimmed, rinsed and dried
1 small Belgian endive, julienned lengthwise

Method

Dry roast the walnuts in a flat frying pan over medium heat until fragrant, shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning.  Set the walnuts aside to cool.  In the meantime place the beets in a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the beets are tender, about 25 minutes.  Rinse the beets well under cold water, drain, slip off the skins and trim any remaining stems.  Chop into bite sized pieces.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, tarragon, chives, mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Stir in the beets and walnuts.

Arrange the spinach on two plates.  Top with the endive.  Lightly dress with the vinaigrette, spooning on the walnuts and beets as you go.

Mesclun, Watercress and Radicchio Salad

The original recipe called for five different types of salad green that are not available where I live.  They recommend ‘sweet types’ for their salad to go with the fruity vinaigrette that follows.  We went in a slightly different direction based on what we had available.  They do recommend refrigerating the greens after rinsing them.  Genius – the greens will wilt a lot less than normal and because they really aren’t farm fresh when they get all the way here, it’s a great idea.

This will make six dinner sized salads.

Ingredients
5 cups mesclun salad mix
1 1/2 cups watercress, end trimmed
1 1/2 cups raddichio, shredded lightly
1/2 cup Orange Vinaigrette with Raspberry Puree (Recipe below)

Method
Rinse the greens well and dry carefully.  Combine in a large bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Toss the greens with the vinaigrette right before serving.

Tips:  We don’t have edible flowers like the original recipe suggests for a garnish but instead we added a few croutons made by toasting and cutting into squares, a piece of leftover naan bread (recipe here) and a few extra raspberries from the vinaigrette below.

Orange Vinagrette with Raspberry Puree

We really did not have to alter this recipe much.  We could not find raspberry vinegar anywhere so we added the tartness of raspberries with our own raspberry puree and apple cider vinegar.

3 tbls fresh orange juice
10 fresh raspberries
1 tbls apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tsp fresh chives, chopped finely

Method
Rinse the raspberries.  Place the raspberries in a small sauce-pan over medium-heat with 2 tbls water.  Cook until the raspberries are soft and release their juices, about 6 or 7 minutes.  Puree in a blender until smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Mix the orange juice, raspberry puree, and apple cider vinegar together in a small measuring cup or bowl.  Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chives.  Makes 1/2 cup.

 

My room mate says “Salads are salads.” which is way right but to make these salads conform to the project we had to do quite a bit of work on finding suitable substitutes.  Feel free to experiment, after all a salad is a salad and you are the expert when it comes to what flavours you like.

Until next time,

Peace & love

Himmatpreet

 

 

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