Tips for Rookie Cooks

Salads. The second part

Raw Mushroom Salad

This simple salad is complex enough to leave as is, but it’s also basic enough to permit a bit of creativity. You can toss in almost any vegetable, leafy green, or nut to customize it to your preference. See our suggestions, below, for inspiration.

  • 1 pound crimini or button mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on their size
  • Lemon Vinaigrette (page 148)
  • 3 ounces (about 1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

In a medium serving bowl, toss mushrooms with vinaigrette, to taste. Add cheese and tarragon and toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.

Change it up

Add any of the following:

  • Thinly sliced fennel
  • Steamed asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
  • Fresh, chopped spinach leaves
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Homemade Croutons (page 163)

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta, Chives, and Pine Nuts

These days, most of the fruits and vegetables you find in the supermarket have been hybridized— bred for particular qualities such as size, shape, and color. In the process, much of the true flavor is lost in exchange for uniform eye appeal. Heirloom tomatoes are tomatoes that have not been genetically engineered, so they retain all the delicious natural tomato flavor. They can be kind of funny looking—misshapen and oddly colored—but once you slice them up and place them on a platter, the array of hues is stunning.

  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colors (or any good-quality tomatoes), sliced Balsamic Vinaigrette (page 149)
  • 3 ounces (about ½ cup) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/ 3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Arrange tomato slices on a large serving platter or individual salad plates. Drizzle vinaigrette over the tomatoes to taste. Sprinkle feta, toasted pine nuts, and chopped chives on top.

Serve it with

  • Roasted Salmon with Garlic Confit (page 107)
  • Top Sirloin with Charmoula on a Bed of Arugula (page 113)

Artichoke and Endive Panzanella

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad traditionally made with tomatoes. This lemony version will delight your guests with unexpected ingredients. Bonus: it’s a great way to use up stale bread! If you don’t have stale bread handy, just pop your bread cubes into a hot oven for a few minutes to toast them lightly. This salad is best after it sits for a few hours, allowing the bread and other ingredients to soak up the delicious dressing, so plan.

  • 3 cups cubed crusty bread, lightly toasted
  • 1 14-ounce can artichokes in water, drained and cut into quarters
  • 3 Belgian endives, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 ounces (about 1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup (loosely packed) julienned fresh basil
  • 1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette (page 148)

In a medium salad bowl, combine the bread, artichokes, endives, cheese, and basil. Add the vinaigrette and toss until well combined. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

Serve it with

  • An antipasto platter of aged cheeses, cured meats, and assorted olives
  • Roasted Tomato-Curry Soup (page 76)

Change it up

  • Add a large-seeded and diced tomato just before serving for extra color and flavor.
  • Use mint or cilantro in place of the basil.
Avocado, Jicama, and Apple Salad

The red onion and hot peppers give this sweet, refreshing salad a dose of unexpected vigor. It’s perfect for an outdoor meal on a warm day, but you can also serve it indoors on a cold day, or in a grass hut on a fair day, or even in a pup tent out in the rain. We don’t care. Just try it. You’ll like it.

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (juice of 1–2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 firm, ripe Hass avocados (the kind with bumpy black skin), peeled and diced
  • ½ pound jicama, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 large apple (Fuji, Gala, or any other firm, sweet type), cored and diced (about 1½ cups)
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1–2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and honey. Add the avocadoes, jicama, apple, onion, and chiles and stir gently to coat with the dressing. Let sit for 16 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve it with

  • Grilled chicken or fish

Change it up

  • Substitute mango, papaya, or orange for the apple.

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