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COOKING : CULINARY SOS

Blazing salads

Hot combinations from chefs inspire readers' recipe requests.

June 04, 2008|Noelle Carter | Times Staff Writer

ALTHOUGH Southern California menus are filled with salad options year-round, chefs often find renewed inspiration as warm weather arrives. Readers of our Culinary SOS column, which brings requested restaurant recipes into The Times' test kitchen for adaptation to home kitchens, have been asking for all sorts of salads lately. Three recent requests were for burrata salad from Murano Restaurant, Bar & Lounge in West Hollywood, shaking beef salad from Gingergrass in Silver Lake and roasted red and gold beet salad from Canele in Atwater Village.

Neha Sheth, a reader and self-described cheese fanatic from Los Angeles, requested a recipe for the seasonal burrata salad from Murano. The restaurant's version is a twist on the classic pairing of prosciutto and melon and makes for a bold blend of colors and flavors.

"I wanted to bring the classic flavor combination together with a modern take," says chef Kristi Ritchey. "And pink honeydew is so great right now."

The salad begins with thinly sliced pink honeydew -- or any sweet melon -- arranged in a pattern at the base of a plate. Top the melon with peppery arugula tossed in a light Champagne vinaigrette, then mound the salad with thinly sliced prosciutto. A wedge of fresh burrata cheese is nestled into the prosciutto and dressed with a little aged balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt. A light sprinkling of candied pecans dots the almost-complete plate.

For extra color and flavor, finish the salad with a drizzle each of bright chive oil and rich, red vincotto. The chive oil brings a fresh -- and colorful -- herbal note to the presentation. And vincotto "is a nice vinegar alternative," notes Ritchey. "It brings acid to the plate but does not take away from the sweetness of the dish."

The shaking beef dish from Gingergrass in Silver Lake is a salad version of the Vietnamese entree. The dish, requested by reader Nicole Veirup in Sherman Oaks, works perfectly as a one-dish meal combining the hot, sauteed beef over a cool watercress salad.

Chef de cuisine Henry Nghe marinates strips of filet mignon in a traditional combination of garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Shortly before serving, he whisks together a light, ginger-garlic dressing that he tosses with a salad of crisp watercress and thinly sliced red onion. The beef is quickly sauteed in a wok or skillet until caramelized and aromatic, then arranged on the chilled salad and topped with chopped green onions.

For chef Corina Weibel of Canele, the flavors of Morocco serve as inspiration for her colorful beet salad, a vivid combination of red and gold beets tossed with baby carrots, tender bundles of mache (the salad green) and paper-thin slices of lemon. "The salad has a wonderful lemon flavor without being too tart," write readers Andrea Horwatt and Wendy Mitchell.

Roast the beets and blanch the carrots ahead of time and cool before assembling the salad. Use Meyer lemon slices when available; otherwise, quickly blanch thin slices of regular lemons to remove tartness. The dish is tied together with an aromatic cumin vinaigrette -- crushed cumin seeds with garlic, lemon juice and a hint of cayenne powder.

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noelle.carter@latimes.com

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Canele's beet salad

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes (including roasting time)

Servings: 2

Note: Adapted from chef Corina Weibel of Canele. The recipe for the vinaigrette will make more than is needed for the salad. The vinaigrette will keep for 3 days, refrigerated.

3 small gold beets, trimmed

3 small red beets, trimmed

Salt

Olive oil

2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Very small pinch cayenne pepper

Juice of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze, divided

8 very thin lemon slices

6 baby carrots

1 cup parsley, chopped

1/2 cup mache

1 small shallot, sliced thinly

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets in a shallow baking pan, with one-fourth cup water. Sprinkle one-fourth teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil over the beets. Cover the pan with foil and roast in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, until a knife easily pierces the beets. Cool to room temperature, peel and quarter, keeping the gold and red beets separate.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Use a mortar and pestle to grind the cumin seeds to a powder. Add the garlic and pound to a paste. Add a pinch of salt, the cayenne and the juice of one lemon. When all the ingredients are incorporated and the salt is dissolved, drizzle in one-fourth cup of olive oil while stirring. Adjust to taste. Makes about one-fourth cup vinaigrette.

3. In a small pot of boiling salted water, blanch the lemon slices for 20 seconds, just to remove the tartness. Lift out with a slotted spoon and cool in ice water. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

4. In the same pot of boiling water, add the carrots and blanch 2 to 3 minutes, to bring out the vibrant color and soften just slightly. Remove and set aside to cool (do not shock in an ice bath). Add them to the bowl with the lemons.

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