Farmers' Market Salad Recipe by Alice Waters
Farmers' markets have been a fundamental element in the food and philosophy of Chez Panisse. Alice Waters' description of putting together a typical salad from the market demonstrates how ingredient-driven her culinary creativity had become.
I start by looking for really good textures and colors. In spring, I'm certainly going to have radishes in the salad, either shaved or quartered, and I'm going to have all those little spring greens. I'll get them from different vendors, from whoever has the best little wild rocket or whatever. I love those tiny little onions in the spring that are so small they're almost like a little chive. I'll put those in whole. The radishes can go that way when they're tiny as well. Fennel for sure. I love fennel in salad. You can chop up the little fennel leaves—they're beautiful when they're just new. And I like mustard flowers as a garnish. I might get farm eggs and put in some hard-boiled eggs that are halved.
Hard-boiled eggs are wonderful when they're really done right. I bring the water to a boil, and then I put in the eggs. And then I boil them for—well, it depends on the size of the egg—maybe eight minutes. The way I tell that they're done is I take an egg out of the
pot and I'll just crack the shell slightly and press, and you can just tell. If it's too soft, you put it back in again. Just firm, and you know that it's done, and you rinse it in cold water.
I've had raw asparagus in a salad like that, but for vegetables, usually I'll make a plate that is more of a spring aioli plate. I'll cook asparagus and artichokes and potatoes and carrots and fennel, and then make some green garlic aioli with it. I crush the green garlic—the green and the white parts both—in a mortar, and then blend that into a homemade mayonnaise. Little piles of each of the vegetables, separate, not seasoned—dead plain. It's a beautiful lunch. It's my favorite lunch to make for friends—some variation of vegetables with either vinaigrette or an aioli, and maybe with a tapenade and some toast.
For any salad greens, you're looking for the ones that have just been picked. Ones that have an aliveness about them. Ones that don't have any little discolored ends. I don't mind the ones that have a little dirt on them because they just came out of the field.
They didn't even have time to wash them. You'd be surprised where you can find greens like that. If I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I would make friends right away with a gardener who was part of one of those community gardens.
Excerpted from Alice Waters And Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee. Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Thomas McNamee, 2007.
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