Thursday, April 26, 2007

That Salad - found it!

Would you believe, this article from 1997 is still out there! It has the outline recipe for The Salad. I recently rewrote the recipe and article.

Here it is:

Variations on One Great Salad
I love salads. But for the longest time preparing a good salad was a mystery to me. I was never sure that ingredients I chose would come together once they were tossed and dressed. Then there was the question of the dressing. Long ago I'd stopped buying bottled dressing. Ninety-nine percent of the salad dressings on the market are terrible tasting with added stabilizers or freshening agents. So, I'd pour over cookbooks, websites, whatever I could get my hands on to find creative dressing recipes. I'd follow each recipe to a "t"! Salads simply made me nervous and I wasn't going to mess around without a strict guideline!
Those salad scare days are long gone. My new found dressed-green confidence came in the form of one great recipe. Handed out casually during a cooking class, it didn't have a name other than: Watercress, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad. It was lightly dressed in a Spanish sherry vinaigrette. The contrasting textures, colors and flavors made everyone in class take notice. We all devoured it and I added it to my favorite list right then!
Since then I've seen many versions of this salad at all types of restaurants. From a classic Italian combination of gorgonzola and walnuts to a California French type using a thin slice of St. Auger blue cheese and a caramelized pear, all of them incorporate variations on a few simple ingredients.
Chosen for balance of color, taste and texture a handful of high-quality ingredients can come together in a grand way. Be sure to imagine the finished product... how it will taste, appear on the plate and feel in the mouth? Always critique your creation. Would a different cheese have made it come alive? Next time, switch a few ingredients and critique once again. The possibilities are endless.

An Outline Recipe for My Favorite Salad
Ingredient Outline
Washed and torn dark green leafys which contrast with the cheese used.
  • The nutty flavor of Watercress with goat cheese OR
  • Rich and simple Spinach with intense blue cheese OR
  • Spicy Arugula (Rocket) with Nutty Parmesan OR
  • Classic French combination of Roquefort with celery OR
  • Spicy Baby Green mix which may go with any of the cheeses.
Crisp fleshed fruit thinly sliced (for fancy presentation fan slice the fruit)
Pears or Apples work great - use creative types (Fuji Apples, Asian Pears)
Caramelized pear halves make a special addition, beautiful!

Quality Cheese:
  • Crumbled or grated top quality cheese Montrachet is a flavorful goat cheese OR
  • Parmesan - Italian Parmesan Reggiano - only! (No California or Wisconsin Parmesan need apply!) OR
  • A Blue Cheese - St. Auger, Stilton, Roquefort or Saga OR
  • Choose one which is made as locally as possible to you!

Toasted Nuts:
  • Walnuts and blue cheese go great together OR
  • Pecans pair well with goat cheese
    (for a special occasion, caramelize the pecans. Fabulous!) OR
  • Almonds for a simple and lighter flavor OR
  • Pine Nuts go well with Parmesan
Vinaigrette Dressing
The original salad recipe had a Sherry Wine Vinaigrette. Spanish Sherry Vinegar is a great addition to any one's pantry. It has a flavorful and sweet taste and is a cheaper alternative to quality Balsamic Vinegars.

The dressing should have vinegar, salt, pepper, perhaps a little garlic (not much!), perhaps some chopped fresh herb (something mild like thyme or parsley). Use a mild oil or a mixture. For the mild safflower or Canola work well. A splash of extra virgin olive, hazelnut or avocado will add richness and complexity.

Pour the vinegar into a bowl, add salt, fresh ground pepper, any herb and maybe rub the inside of the bowl with a sliced garlic clove. Mix well and start drizzling in oil as you whisk. Taste often and stop adding oil when the vinegar no longer has a bite to it.

Serving the Salad
Toss the greens with a little of the dressing. Make a bed of greens on each plate or a large platter.Place the fruit decoratively over the greens.Sprinkle on the cheese and then the nuts.Drizzle more dressing over the top. Grind a little pepper over the top.

Voila! Serve, enjoy, savor the compliments and don't forget to critique for next time!

--Culinary Vixen

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