Sunday, June 22, 2008

You Had to Have the Big Salad

When I spotted an article in July's Food & Wine about Laurent Gras, an athletic chef who goes on 100-mile bike rides and won the magazine's prestigious Best New Chef award in 2002, I was psyched. Runner's World regularly profiles chefs who run, but their recipes sometimes let me down: too much emphasis on carbs and protein, and not enough emphasis on taste. So I was keen to try one of Gras's dishes. I'd picked up some fresh shelled peas and radishes at the greenmarket, so I was already well on my way to building the Crunchy Vegetable Salad with Sautéed Peas and Radishes.

Warning: this is no get-home-and-you're-eating-10-minutes-later salad. The recipe's head notes suggest 50 minutes. I'd say give yourself a good hour and 15--if you're going to follow the instructions to a T. Yes, blanching and peeling cherry tomatoes (or worse, as I did, tinier grape tomatoes) is not the easiest task. Nor is cooking and peeling fava beans (an ingredient I skipped entirely). The peas take a two-minute bath in boiling water, too; then they go into a sauté pan with radishes, olive oil and salt. And I used jarred artichokes instead of fresh baby ones, since I couldn't find them at the market or the two grocers I went to.

Extra labor notwithstanding, this is a great salad. Its combination of cooked and raw ingredients is quite satisfying, with a zing from lemon zest and a lemon vinaigrette. We didn't even miss the favas, and while I know jarred artichokes pale in comparison to fresh baby ones, they really did the job just fine. We ate this salad for supper along with a zucchini frittata and some country wheat bread. Big salad, big(ger than usual) effort, big payoff.--S

Crunchy Vegetable Salad with Sautéed Peas and Radishes

1 c cherry tomatoes
1 lb fava beans, shelled
1/2 lb fresh peas, shelled
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
4 baby artichokes (I used one small jar of marinated artichokes)
4 medium radishes, quartered
1 bunch watercress (6 ounces), tough stems discarded
1 t finely grated lemon zest

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut a slit into the base of each tomato and blanch them in the boiling water until their skins start to split, about 15 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the ice water to cool, then drain and peel.
2. In the same water, cook the fava beans until just tender, 2 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly, then peel. Blanch the peas until just tender, 2 minutes. Drain well.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt. With a paring knife, trim the artichoke stems and snap off the tough outer leaves until you reach the light green inner leaves. Using a serrated knife, cut off the top third of the artichokes. Trim the bottoms and stems. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, remove the chokes, if any. Thinly slice the artichokes lengthwise, add them to the dressing and toss to coat. Add the peeled tomatoes and the fava beans and toss again.
4. In a medium skillet, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Add the radishes and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the blanched peas and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Season with salt.
5. In a medium bowl, toss the watercress with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil and the lemon zest and transfer to plates. Top with the artichoke salad and the radishes and peas; serve.

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine

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