Fresh Salad Inspiration

by Chef Deb Traylor (first published on February 19, 2017)

I love the creative aspect of cooking.  In my mind, there’s nothing more exciting professionally, than playing with food and looking at a single ingredient or a produce item and asking the question, “what else can I do with this?”  Because I see food every day, it’s easy to become bored or disenchanted with ingredients, and I have this little quirk that if I’ve seen an application or food item in several restaurants, I no longer want to make it because I feel it’s reached a saturation point.  Therefore, I am constantly trying to find new ways to use familiar ingredients.

For the last three or four years, we’ve been making lettuce-free salads.  In fact, when I would propose a particular salad, say a fennel salad, or a julienned sweet pea salad for a dinner, it usually took me longer to explain the simplicity of the salad that contained no lettuce or mixed greens then it does to actually make it. It’s hard to visualize how a salad made primarily of a single thinly shaved vegetable could be an exciting salad.  But I promise you it is, and it’s unique enough that it captures guests’ attention.

I am so obsessed with using alternatives to standard salad greens that we discuss it in our food philosophy meetings with the various companies we work with. Interestingly enough, this week one of the design people we’ve talked to emailed me while on her trip in South Africa.  She wrote about great chefs, great food, amazing coffee shops, bakeries and… salads without a leaf of greens! 🙂

This week we’re flirting with a recipe that uses very little greens, and you can easily sustitute shaved fennel or parsley greens if you want to commit completely to a “no lettuce” salad. This salad combines a variety of colorful fruit with a few pomegranate arils (seeds), micro thin slices of shallot, a light drizzle of fruity/peppery extra virgin olive oil, a few leaves arugula, large flaked salt and a few grinds of pepper.  This salad is bright, has a little crunch, a touch of sweet and sour, and a bitter bite from the arugula.  It’s a winter salad but it feels light and refreshing.

This salad recipe is merely a suggestion, here are some other thoughts:

  • Use a variety of citrus for color and to add depth with some sour, sweet, and floral notes ( we used a “sweet lime” that had an incredible floral perfume… it was amazing!)
  • Substitute fennel that’s been finely shaved and placed in ice water for 30 minutes. Fennel adds crunch and a slight anise flavor that works very well with citrus.
  • Another substitute for the arugula can be the pale celery leaves that you find on the inside of the celery stalks. The pale leaves add a nice contrast to the citrus and its unexpected.  It’s perfect!
  • Add sliced avocado and/or feta cheese for added creamy texture and flavor.
  • We supremed the citrus …here’s a YouTube video that demonstrates how this is done.

Winter Citrus Salad

  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 1 grapefruit, sectioned or supremed
  • 1 blood orange, sectioned or supremed
  • 1 orange, sectioned or supremed
  • 3 mandarin oranges, sectioned or supremed
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2-3 Tbsp. good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, very thinly sliced
  • flaked sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Arrange arugula on a platter and top with citrus and pomegranate. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with shallot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Makes 2-4 servings.

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