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RECIPES: Potato Salad Reveries

The summers of our youth meant that on the three holiday weekends—Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day—Mom was going to put out a major spread. You could have held a wedding reception with the diversity and quantity of food she set out.

Aside from the fruit pies and trays of brownies, what we most looked forward to was her potato salad.

It was so much better than anybody else’s mother’s, which was more like deli potato salad: potatoes and mayo.

Not our mom. Gifted with a super-palate and member of a family of competitive (with each other) cooks, her potato salad consisted of:

  • Red jacket potatoes (the most posh of that era)
  • Red onion
  • Small dice of red and green bell peppers (the only colors available then)
  • Fresh parsley and dill
  • A dressing of Hellmann’s mayonnaise mixed with Grey Poupon Dijon mustard and some red wine vinegar
  • We could care less about the steak, chicken, burger or whatever: We just wanted a big plate of potato salad, a big plate of fruit salad (berries, melon balls and stone fruits, presented in a carved out watermelon), glasses of her fruit punch and all those desserts.

    (Alas, these remain our preferences. Keep the steak: Got sugar?)

    Over the years we’ve tried to improve on Mom’s recipe:

  • By adding something new [not all at once]: anchovies (for the right crowd), bacon or ham, capers, chiles, crumbled feta or blue cheese, fancy basil from the farmers market (cinnamon, lemon, licorice, opal, Thai), other herbs (minced chives, fresh thyme), peas (English peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas), sliced olives.
  • By adding newer versions of standard ingredients: homemade or artisan mayonnaise, purple potatoes, orange and purple bell peppers, scallions instead of red onions, vinaigrette with flavored olive oil.
  •  
    And we look for inspiring recipes from other cooks, such as today’s two recipes.

    The first is a rustic Italian potato salad side dish; the second is an elegant first course.

    RECIPE #1: HEALTHIER POTATO SALAD

    This recipe from Ciao Florentina uses a healthier olive oil dressing, veggies, and some additional ingredients that add not just flavor, but charm.

    Fiorentina says this is an Italian-style potato salad recipe, “made with colorful red and purple heirloom potatoes, fresh herbs and spring green peas, then tossed in a lovely light and zesty vinaigrette.”

    “To make a meal of things,” says Fiorentina, “feel free to add some toasted pine nuts or fresh radishes sliced paper thin, like I did. I also sprinkled the entire salad with a handful of green pea shoots in season; [at other times] I’ll go for pretty microgreens.”

    Florentina is an artist as well as a cook: Everything she makes is beautiful to look at. Her recipes are simple, wholesome, and most important, delicious!

       

    Pretty Potato Salad
    [1] Healthy and beautiful potato salad from Ciao Fiorentina.

    Pea Shoots

    [2] Chopped pea shoots (photo Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

    Mixed New Potatoes

    [3] Mixed-color new potatoes (also called creamer potatoes; photo courtesy Poplar Bluff Organics).

     
    Download her free e-cookbooks and subscribe to her “recipe and inspiration” list here.
     
    Ingredients For 4 Side Servings

  • 2 pound colored new potatoes
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1-1/2 cup fresh green peas steamed*
  • 1/4 cup green pea shoots*, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs parsley, dill, chives, thyme
  • 1 scallion thinly sliced
  • 5-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 1 cup yellow grape tomatoes halved, optional
  • Optional: 1 radish
  •  
    ________________

    *If fresh peas aren’t in season, substitute frozen peas; substitute microgreens for the pea shoots.

    Preparation

    1. RINSE and cut the potatoes into rustic (thick) slices or wedges. Cover them with cold water and bring to a boil. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and simmer until tender but still al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to dry in their own steam for a few minutes. While the potatoes are cooking…

    2. STEAM the green peas for 3 to 4 minutes until al dente. Meanwhile…

    3. WHISK together the olive oil, lemon juice and most of the herbs in a large bowl. Season to taste with sea salt. Add the potatoes and peas to the bowl with the dressing, and gently toss to coat. Allow the potatoes to sit in the dressing for about 10 minutes to absorb all the flavors.

    4. TASTE and adjust the seasonings to taste with more sea salt. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs, pea shoots and scallions. Optional to sprinkle with some grape tomatoes and radish slices.

     

    Purple Potato & Cucumber Salad
    [4] Potato salad as an elegant first course, from Idaho Potato Commission.

    Blue Peruvian Potatoes

    [5] Blue Peruvian potatoes. Depending on the strain and the soil where grown, they will be purple instead. Note, however, that blue potatoes often cook up the same purple color as purple potatoes (photo courtesy Burpee).

     

    RECIPE #2: LEBANESE BLUE POTATO TABOULI

    This recipe, developed by Chef Giuseppe Tentori of GT Prime and GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago, came to us via the Idaho Potato Commission, is called tabouli.

    Here’s some history for those of us who think of tabouli (tabbouleh) as a salad of cracked wheat, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onions, lemon juice, and olive oil:

    The tabouli cracked wheat salad originated in the Levant, a historical area in the Middle East that included parts of the modern countries of Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. The term was first used in the 15th century.

    The Levantine Arabic word tabbule is derived from the Arabic word tabil, meaning “seasoning”; or more literally, “dip.” While the word came to define tabbouleh, the cracked wheat salad, Chef Tentori used it to define the small dice of ingredients that comprise his dish.

    At a fine restaurant, it sounds better than “potato salad.” (And technically, potatoes are indigenous to Peru, discovered by Spanish explorers. There were no blue potatoes—or likely other potatoes—in the Levant.)

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 2 pounds Idaho All Blue Potatoes, peeled, small dice
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 ounce extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 English (seedless) cucumbers, chopped fine†
  • Optional: 6 baby cucumbers‡ with blossoms (see photo)
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • Asian mesclun mix, as needed
  • ________________

    †We found that we wanted some seasoning in the cucumbers. We mixed them with fresh dill. You could also toss them with dill seed, garlic powder or the zest of the lemons.

    ‡This is a specialty item available from produce suppliers to chefs. If you can’t find them, use your spiralizer to create a mound of cucumber on top. Alternatively, thinly slice and marinate cucumbers in vinaigrette for an hour or more; then drain to use as a garnish.
     
    Preparation

    1. BRING salted water to a boil in a medium pan. Add the red-wine vinegar and then the diced potatoes. Cook until just al dente. Shock the potatoes in an ice bath. Drain well and pat dry.

    2. COMBINE the potatoes, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in large bowl. Toss gently to combine.

    3. PLACE a 4-inch ring mold in the center of each plate. Pack the potato mixture firmly into each ring mold; reserve the extra vinaigrette in bowl. Spread the chopped cucumber on top. Carefully remove the ring molds. Top the tabouli with a mini cucumber or two.

    4. GARNISH the plate with the feta cheese and Asian greens. Drizzle the greens with the remaining vinaigrette.
     
     
    POTATO LOVERS: Idaho Potato Commission has more potato recipes than the most avid potato lover could make in a year.

      

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    RECIPE: Peach Panzanella, Just Peachy For Lunch Or Dinner

    Peach Panzanella

    Peach Panzanella

    Ripe Peaches

    [1] Peach panzanella as a salad course and [2] a main course, with added mozzarella and prosciutto (photos courtesy Good Eggs). Fragrant ripe peaches [3] are a versatile ingredient at every meal (photos courtesy Pompeian.

     

    August is National Peach Month, honoring the most popular stone fruit: the peach. (Other stone fruits, in the genus Prunus, include almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and the cross-bred apriums, plumcots and pluots.)

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF PEACHES

    The peach originated in China and has been cultivated at least since 1000 B.C.E. Peaches traveled west via the silk roads to Persia, earning them the botanical name Prunus persica. There, they were discovered by Alexander the Great, who mentions half a dozen types and brought them to Greece.

    By 322 B.C.E. Greece was growing peaches, and by 50 to 20 B.C.E., Romans grew them. They called them Persian apples, and sold them for the modern equivalent of $4.50.

    The Romans transported peach trees to other parts of their empire.

    Columbus brought peach trees to America on his second and third voyages. The Spaniards brought peaches to South America, the French introduced them to Louisiana, and the English took them to their New England colonies.

    To this day China remains the largest world producer of peaches, with Italy second. California produces more than 50% of the peaches in the United States (and grows 175 different varieties). And so many peaches are grown in Georgia that it became known as the Peach State.

    Here’s more about peaches.

    Over the next week or two, we’ll be presenting a menu of peachy recipes, starting with…

    RECIPE #1: PEACH PANZANELLA

    Panzanella, an Italian bread salad that uses up day-old bread, is one of our favorites, tailored to the bounty of each season. Panzanella can be sweet or savory. In the winter, with a paucity of fresh fruit, recipes tend to be savory (here’s a classic winter panzanella recipe).

    But when the season gives you so much fresh fruit, sweeter panzanellas call.

    Panzanella is one of those delicious foods invented by necessity: Poor people needed to get another meal from bread that had gone stale (the history of panzanella).

    In summer grilling season, juicy, caramelized peaches and smoky grilled bread unite in this summer panzanella. These recipes, for a salad course and a dinner salad, are from Good Eggs. They were inspired by Julia Sherman’s new book, Salad for President.

    No grill? Broil the peaches and bread cut-side up in the oven.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 shallot
  • Loaf of sourdough bread
  • 1 pound ripe yellow peaches
  • Fresh basil leaves to taste, torn
  • Sherry vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Additions For Dinner Salad (photo #2)

  • 1/4 pound prosciutto or serrano ham slices
  • 1/2 cup bocconcini or other bite-size mozzarella balls
  • Optional: fresh tomato wedges
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREPARE a very hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium. No grill? Use a grill pan in the oven)

    2. CHOP the shallot finely. Cut off two large slices of sourdough. Set both aside.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Whisk together 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil and the shallot in a small bowl. Set aside.

    4. HALVE the peaches and remove the pits. In a large bowl, toss the peach halves and optional ingredients with 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil over both sides of the bread slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    5. OIL the grill grate and let it heat up for a minute or two. Arrange the bread slices on the outer edges of the grill grate and the peaches, cut-side down, in the center. Set the peach bowl aside but don’t rinse it.

    6. GRILL the bread on each side for for 1 minute, or until lightly toasted. Grill the peaches until the bottoms are caramelized and lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip the peaches and cook for another 3 minutes. If using an oven, broil both the bread and the peaches cut side up.

    7. REMOVE the toasted bread from the grill, allow it to cool enough to handle, and tear it into bite-sized pieces (we prefer to cut it into large croutons). Cut each peach half in half again (or if the peaches are larger, cut them into into large chunks). Place them in the peach bowl along with the torn bread.

    8. DRIZZLE the dressing over the peaches and bread, and toss. Let the panzanella marinate for 5-10 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, as desired.

    9. GARNISH with torn basil and serve.

     
     
    MORE PANZANELLA RECIPES

  • Summer Panzanella Salad
  • Basic Panzanella Salad (basil, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes)
  • Chicken Panzanella Salad
  • Panzanella & Fruit Salad
  • Winter Panzanella
  • Zucchini & Bell Pepper Panzanella
  •  
      

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    RECIPE: Fried Green Tomatoes & Savory French Toast With Tomatoes

    We haven’t read the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe.

    But in the film, while green tomatoes are fried up, we (a northerner and fan of heirloom tomatoes) missed a technical point.

    We didn’t realize that the green tomatoes were fried because they were not yet ripe. Plucked off the vine green (photo #2) and dredged in cornmeal, they were a treat.

    We initially thought that they were Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes (photo #1).

    So, tomato growers: Take some of your green guys and fry them up! (And those who want to know more about Green Zebra tomatoes: Here it is.)

    Fried green tomatoes are typically served as a side dish; in the South, with fried chicken. We enjoy them with grilled chicken and fish. We’ve been adding them to grilled cheese sandwiches, too, and highly recommend it.

    When fresh red tomatoes aren’t great—which is the case for much of the year—fry them up and add to green salads.

    McCormick serves fried green tomatoes with buttermilk chipotle dressing, or topped with lump crabmeat and Creole mustard—a nice first course.

    Ready to fry some green tomatoes?

    RECIPE #1: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

    This is the classic southern recipe (photo #3): buttermilk, cornmeal and green tomatoes (photo #2).

    Use a heavy skillet. Some recipes we’ve read recommend the even heat of an electric skillet.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Vegetable oil*
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh parsley or basil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the egg and buttermilk; set aside.

    2. COMBINE 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, the cornmeal, salt, and pepper, in a shallow bowl or pan.

    3. DREDGE the tomato slices in the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Dip in the egg mixture and dredge in cornmeal mixture.

    4. ADD the oil to a large cast-iron skillet, to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Heat it to 375°F.

    5. DROP the tomatoes, in batches, into the hot oil. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels or on a rack.

    6. SPRINKLE the hot tomatoes with salt, if desired. (We served flaky salt on the table.)
    ________________

    *Some recipes add bacon grease. If you have it, substitute three tablespoons bacon grease for an equal amount of oil.
    ________________
     
     
    RECIPE #2: SAVORY FRENCH TOAST WITH TOMATO SALAD

    Don’t want to fry your tomatoes? Then treat yourself to the gourmet’s green tomatoes: Green Zebras (photos #1 and #6), in a tomato salad.

    And, use the salad as a garnish for French Toast. Save the maple syrup for post-tomato-season.

    Look for Green Zebras in farmers markets. The season is fleeting, so enjoy as many of these (and other heirloom tomatoes) as you can.

       

    Green Zebra Tomatoes
    [1] Heirloom Green Zebra tomatoes, which remain green when ripe, are not meant to be fried, but to be enjoyed raw (photo courtesy Rare Seeds).

    Green Tomato On Vine
    [2] Green tomatoes that have not yet ripened to red are used to make fried green tomatoes (photo courtesy Chrissi Nerantzi | SXC).

    Fried Green Tomatoes
    [3] Cornmeal + tomatoes + skillet = fried green tomatoes (photo and recipe courtesy McCormick).

    Fried Green Tomatoes With Crab Meat

    [4] A first course: fried green tomatoes with lump crab and mustard sauce. Here’s the recipe from McCormick.

     

    Savory French Toast Recipe
    [5] Top French Toast with a green tomato salad (photo courtesy Quinciple).

    Green Zebra Tomatoes
    [6] Use Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes for a salad…including atop French Toast.

    Monte Cristo Sandwich

    [7] Monte Cristo sandwich (photo courtesy Kikkoman).

     

    This recipe is actually a grilled cheese hybrid. Instead of brushing bread with butter before grilling, the bread is dipped in “French Toast” batter: eggs and milk. Serve it for breakfast or lunch.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: 3-4 dashes hot sauce
  • 4 thick slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 slices cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or any good melting cheese—we used gruyère)
  • 2 green or heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • ½ tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot or red onion
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the eggs, milk, hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow bowl. Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture on both sides until fully coated and set aside.

    2. HEAT the butter in a large pan over medium heat and add the bread slices, cooking until golden brown. Flip the bread and cook on the other side until golden brown and cooked through.

    3. TURN off the heat and top each slice with some cheese; cover the pan to let the cheese melt. Meanwhile…

    4. TOSS together the tomatoes, parsley, chives, olive oil, vinegar, shallot and seasoning to taste. Divide the French Toast between two plates and top with the tomato salad.
     
    MORE SAVORY FRENCH TOAST RECIPES
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF FRENCH TOAST

    The dish known in America as French Toast has roots at least as far back as ancient Rome, where it was a sweet dish. In fact, pain perdu (lost bread), the current French name for the dish, was once called pain à la romaine, or Roman bread.

    While the story evolved that French Toast was a food of the poor, trying to scrape together a meal from stale bread—and that may also be true—recipes from ancient and medieval times denote that it was fare for wealthy people.

     
    Recipes used white bread, a luxury affordable only by the rich, with the crusts cut off. Poor people ate brown bread, which was much cheaper because the wheat endosperm did not have to be milled and painstakingly hand-sifted through screens to create the vastly more expensive white flour.

    (That’s right: The more nutritious whole grain brown bread was looked down on as food for the poor. To the thinking of the time, white bread was more “pure” and “elegant.” The same pattern was true in Asia, with white rice for the rich and brown rice for the poor.)

    When the wealthy discovered how tasty the dish was, costly ingredients such as spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace and nutmeg), sugar and almond milk appeared in the batter of numerous recipes. The cooked bread was topped with costly honey or sugar.

    Thus attests old cookbooks. Cookbooks themselves were the province of the privileged: Only wealthy people and the clergy learned to read.

    More recently, French Toast has evolved into a savory sandwich, the Monte Cristo. It is an evolution of the croque-monsieur, a crustless sandwich of ham and Gruyère cheese, buttered and lightly browned on both sides in a skillet or under a broiler.

    The Croque-Monsieur was invented in Paris in 1910. A variation with a baked egg on top is called a Croque-Madame. Neither sandwich was battered, like French Toast.

    The Monte Cristo sandwich (photo #7), a triple-decker sandwich, battered and pan-fried, was invented at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. According to the L.A. Times, the first recipe in print is in the Brown Derby Cookbook, published in 1949.

    Here’s the recipe so you can try it for lunch—although probably not on the same day you have French Toast for breakfast.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Crudités & The History Of The Relish Tray

    When we were in college, we first learned that our grandmother’s “relish tray” snacks—carrots, celery sticks, radishes, olives—could be elevated to something our friend Carolyn—who had spent her junior year abroad in Paris—called crudités.

    At a dinner one day, she served what we now know as an crudités plate, artfully cut and arranged.

    The French, she said, turned raw vegetables of every description into a platter of vegetables that are a visual delight.

    There was no creamy dip, but a vinaigrette with minced fresh herbs.

    We fell hard for crudités and have prepared them for company ever since.

    In the summer, we go for whatever we can find in the farmers market: heirloom cherry tomatoes, red carrots, purple and orange cauliflower, quartered Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes (pr any good-looking heirloom variety)….

    But to give credit where credit is due, our contemporary, seasonal crudités plate began with the now-retro relish tray.

    HISTORY OF THE RELISH TRAY

    People in the earliest civilizations no doubt ate raw vegetables, perhaps with a condiment dip—olive oil? garum? tahini?

    But what was stood for a relish tray in Colonial America were dishes of actual relishes—corn relish, cranberry sauce, pickle relish, etc.—served with meals as condiments for the meats.

    Over time, the definition of “relish” expanded. By 1923, The Encyclopedia Of Food by Artemas Ward defined relishes as “a term flexibly applied to pickles, small fish variously preserved, and a number of other dishes intended to stimulate appetite.”

    The relish tray had become a variety of tidbits arranged on a platter. It was a small course before dinner—with drinks when entertaining and holiday and other special family meals.

    The Refrigerator Spurs Development

    But it wasn’t until the 1930s, with the advent of home refrigerators, that relish trays became a mainstay. Says a 1988 article in the Chicago Tribune, “It didn’t take Better Homes and Gardens long to figure out that cooks could prepare small batches of pickles and relishes well ahead of dinnertime and store them.”

    The magazine featured recipes for pickled carrot sticks and cranberry relish. They taught housewives to create their own pickles, instead of buying them from the barrel at the corner store.

    These ideas came from the home economists—Fanny Farmer started as one—women cooks, schooled in nutrition and the home arts. They worked in the background at women’s magazines, brand manufacturers and cookbook publishers, to devise and test recipes to make housewives’ cooking more interesting.

    They developed the recipes printed on the package labels, and featured in brand advertisements—recipes that housewives eagerly sought and prepared. Recipes that became iconic, from seven layer dip to Key lime pie. Green bean casserole made with canned mushroom soup from the soup manufacturer. How to use grape jelly for a sauce, from the jelly manufacturer. Velveta and Ro-tel dip. And on and on.

    At some point, no doubt, a home economist put together the ingredients for the relish trays of the 1940s.

    The Iconic Relish Tray Evolves

    By the 1940s, relish trays made of silver or cut glass were standard in dining-room china cabinets [source]. Our Nana, a very proper lady. had two: a rectangular boat shape, and a round plate divided into pie-shaped sections, to even more elegantly separate the tidbits. (We still have both of those plates, albeit “stored away somewhere.”)

    By then, the “modern” relish tray ingredients had become somewhat standard. These were decades to conform, not to seek creative alternatives. The relish tray of the day included:

  • Carrot sticks.
  • Celery sticks, often stuffed with cream cheese or, for the true gourmet, olive cream cheese and pimento cream cheese.
  • Olives; for the deluxe treatment, both black pitted and green stuffed with pimento.
  • Radishes, carved into roses by elegant cooks like Nana.
  • Sweet gherkins.
  •  

    Summer Crudites
    Summer crudités from the seasonal bounty. You don’t have to cook the corn: Raw corn is delicious (photo courtesy Good Food Kitchen).

    Everydaty Crudite Plate
    An everyday crudités plate before dinner.

    Relish Tray
    Then: An old-fashioned relish tray (photo Pinterest).

    Crudites With Pimento Cheese

    [4] Now: Crudités in an interesting presentation with pimento cheese at 33 Greenwich | NYC. We also like to serve them in baskets.

     
    Perhaps these nibbles did “stimulate the appetite;” but we came to see them as food that could be prepared in advance and set out, while Nana and her fellow housewives hustled to get the first course on the table. It was fare to enjoy with drinks and social talk until all participants had arrived.

    By the 1950s, when the American restaurant culture became mainstream, the relish tray was placed on the table along with the bread and butter: a way to satisfy the hungry diners before their orders arrived. “At home, however,” says the Chicago Tribune, “the relish-tray tradition began to decline.” We entered the era of frozen food, and no one manufactured a frozen relish tray.

    But by 1970, California cuisine was on the rise. We began to eat raw vegetables beyond carrots, celery and radishes.

    Hello raw broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green beans, sugar snap peas, zucchini. Throw in some salad ingredients: bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumber.

    And that’s what we were serving, when we learned about crudités.

    (Might we note that along with the raw vegetable tray came creamy dips: the onion dip on the soup package label, the spinach dip on the frozen spinach package, the artichoke dip on the sour cream package label…).

    Since then, we’ve learned to eat seasonally. And we just love raw corn, purple broccoli and heirloom tomatoes and yellow squash as summer crudités.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Shaved Salad

    Get out your mandoline and make a shaved salad.

    Thinly-shaved foods not only have visual elegance, but enable a better melding of flavors on the fork.

    Serve them as a first course, a salad course after the main course, or a light lunch (for example, plated with cold chicken, roast, seafood).

    Photo #1, from Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, layers slices:

  • Green tomato (substitute red, purple or other heirloom color)
  • Husk cherry/ground cherry* (substitute red or orange grape tomatoes or small tomatillos)
  • Nectarine (substitute other stone fruit)
  • Coppa di testa*, a Tuscan version of head cheese (substitute other meat)
  • ________________

    *The coppa di testa or other block of charcuterie can also be sliced on the mandoline. See more about ground cherries and testa below.
    ________________

    Photo #2 presents a shaved pear salad with beets, blue cheese and fennel.

    You can switch out all the elements—fruits, vegetables, dressings, etc.—to combine your favorite flavors.
     
     
    RECIPE: SHAVED PEAR & VEGETABLE SALAD

    This recipe is from USA Pears, but during prime stone fruit season (July and August), feel free to substitute. The only caveat is that you need to slice a firm fruit.

    Most fruits should be used before they ripen into a softness that can’t be sliced on a mandoline. The texture to aim for is similar to an apple, pineapple or watermelon.

    USA Pears suggests vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, celery, sweet onion, and seasonal ingredients like delicata squash and summer squash.

    Ingredients For The Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons tangerine juice (from one juicy tangerine), or other mandarin
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  •  
    Ingredients For The Salad

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 fennel bulb (reserve the delicate fronds for garnish)
  • 1 small bunch radishes, bottoms trimmed and about ½ inch of the top left on (leaving a little greenery on makes the radishes easy to hold while slicing on the mandoline)
  • 2 raw beets, peeled and trimmed (use golden or chiogga [candy stripe] beets if you can find them—red beets will bleed on the other vegetables)
  • 2 slightly under-ripe pears, such as Anjou or Concorde
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (substitute feta or goat cheese)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing: Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

    2. PREPARE the salad: Slice all of the vegetables as thinly as possible on a mandoline slicer, transferring them to a large bowl as you go. This can be done several hours in advance; be sure to cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. So the pears don’t brown, just before serving the salad…

    3. THINLY SLICE the pears on the mandoline, leaving the core behind. Add the pears to the bowl with the other vegetables along with about two-thirds of the dressing. Gently toss the ingredients together, sliding apart vegetables that remain stacked together with your fingers.

    4. ARRANGE the salad on a platter, drizzling with more dressing, if desired. Crumble the blue cheese on top and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.

     
    WHAT ARE GROUND CHERRIES?

    Ground cherries, Physalis pubescens, are not cherries at all. They are members of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and tomatillos as well as the cape gooseberry (their cousin), chile peppers, eggplants and potatoes.

     

    Shaved Salad
    [1] A shaved salad of summer fruits on top of thinly-sliced charcuterie (photo courtesy Rolf & Daughters | Nashville).

    Shaved Salad
    [2] Shaved pear salad with beets and blue cheese (photo courtesy USA Pears).

    Groundcherry On Bush
    [3] Want to grow your own ground cherries? Here’s how from Rodale Organic Life.

    Dutch Head Cheese
    [4] The Dutch version of head cheese, called preskop (photo Takeaway | Wikipedia).

    Microplane Mandoline

    [5] Handheld mandolines have become popular recently. They take up less room, but require more effort than the traditional models that have a fold-out stand for stability (photo courtesy Microplane).

     
    Like the tomatillo and cape gooseberry, ground cherries grow inside a papery husk.

    Other names include husk tomato, low ground-cherry and hairy ground cherry, strawberry tomato, winter cherry and a variety of others.

    Ground cherries are typically eaten raw, as a snack or in recipes like salads and salsas.

    WHAT IS HEAD CHEESE?

    Head cheese is a cold cut that originated in Europe. Each country has a version of it.

    The most popular version in the U.S. is a variation of the Italian soppressata or coppa di testa (coppa refers to air-cured pork meat).

    It is not a dairy cheese, but got the name because it was made in a rectangular block (terrine). The grocer sliced it the same as a loaf of cheese.

    The meat really does come from the head of a pig or calf (less commonly from a cow or sheep). Artisan versions are often set in aspic.

    Head cheese may be flavored with onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature.

    Peasants used every part of an animal (even the “squeal,” as some oldsters like to joke). Historically, the skulls, which contain natural gelatin, were used to produce aspic.

    The cleaned head of the animal, all meat removed, was simmered to produce stock, a peasant food made since the Middle Ages. When cooled, the stock congeals into aspic.

      

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