Tips for Rookie Cooks

Salads. the third part

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

Sweet, juicy watermelon, salty feta cheese, sprightly fresh mint, and pickled red onions make for a delightfully surprising salad. Serve this refreshing treat at the height of summer when watermelons are at their sweetest. The watermelon will give off a lot of liquid after it is combined with the other ingredients, so this salad should be served immediately when all of the parts have been assembled.

  • ¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup lime juice (from about 4 limes)
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed, and seeded watermelon
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup minced fresh mint
  • 3 ounces (about ½ cup) feta cheese, crumbled

Place the sliced onion in a small bowl and sprinkle with salt. Squeeze the lime juice over and add the vinegar. Stir to combine and set aside until ready to assemble the salad, at least 15 minutes, preferably 30. In a medium bowl, toss watermelon with the onion and its soaking liquid. Add mint and toss again to combine. Add feta and gently toss to distribute cheese. Serve immediately.

Serve it with

  • Spicy barbecued chicken

Fig, Mint, and Pistachio Salad

Inspired by cookbook author Viana LaPlace, this salad perfectly sums up the theme of this book: it’s incredibly simple, surprisingly delicious, and certain to impress.

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼–½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 24 medium black mission figs, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/ 3 cup toasted unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1/ 3 cup (tightly packed) minced fresh mint leaves

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add figs and toss gently to coat thoroughly with the dressing. Add pistachio nuts and chopped mint and toss gently until just combined.

Make it ahead

  • The dressing can be made a day or two ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge.

Serve it with

  • A platter of assorted cheese and crusty bread
  • Grilled or roasted pork loin
  • Roasted Salmon with Garlic Confit (page 107)

Change it up

  • Add 3 to 4 cups mixed greens (arugula, baby spinach, chopped romaine, etc.) for a larger, lighter salad.

Warm Jerusalem Artichoke Salad

Also called “sunchoke,” this knobby, gingerroot-looking, winter vegetable is not related to the artichoke at all, but is the tuber of a type of sunflower. The “Jerusalem” part of the name comes from the Italian word for sunflower, Girasole. Jerusalem artichokes have a light, sweet, nutty flavor and a potato-like texture. They can be boiled, mashed, baked, sautéed, dropped into stews, puréed into soups, and even eaten raw. The skin doesn’t need to be peeled—it’s thin and nutritious—but be sure to scrub well. Note that aluminum or iron pans will cause oxidation and turn the ’chokes into a dark, unappetizing color.

  • 1½ pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • ¼ cup (tightly packed) chopped fresh mint
  • Lemon Vinaigrette (page 148)

Place Jerusalem artichokes in a pot with just enough water to cover them and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until artichokes are easily pierced with a fork, 5 to 7 minutes more. Transfer to a colander to drain and let cool for 5 minutes. In a serving bowl, toss artichokes with onion, capers, mint, and vinaigrette to taste. Serve immediately.

Change it up

  • Top with crumbled feta cheese.
Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit in Wasabi-Lime Vinaigrette

Spicy Japanese wasabi paste gives our Wasabi-Lime Vinaigrette (page 151) its unique flavor. Tart lime and grapefruit, rich avocado, and savory shrimp complete the picture of a perfect main course salad.

  • 12 ounces soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles Wasabi-Lime Vinaigrette (page 151)
  • 1 ruby grapefruit
  • 1 medium Hass avocado (the kind with bumpy black skin), peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 4–6 radishes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 green onions, white and pale green part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound cooked, peeled shrimp

Cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Drain in a colander, rinse well with cold water, and drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with about ¼ cup vinaigrette. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel, including all the white pith, from the grapefruit and then cut the segments of flesh from the membranes and set on a double layer of paper towels to drain. Divide the noodles among 4 serving plates. Top with the avocado, radishes, cucumber, green onions, and grapefruit sections, dividing evenly. Pile a quarter of the shrimp on each of the 4 salads. Drizzle vinaigrette over the salads to taste, and serve.

Make it ahead

  • The noodles can be cooked a day ahead and kept, covered, in the fridge.

Change it up

  • For a more decadent salad, replace the shrimp with the sliced meat from 2 lobster tails.
  • For a lighter salad, replace the noodles with 6 cups of mâche or other delicate salad greens.

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