Green Plum Cooking School – Sat, Nov 28th
Despite not getting much sleep on Friday night, I’m energized to do the class. My cousin, Travis, is back from Iraq and reminiscing about his old Boulevard Bistrot workdays being so much more stressful than being shot at in Iraq — what that says about me or the restaurant business is up to you to figure out. His wife and daughter are vegans, so I’m determined to do all vegan items for today’s class. One decision led simply to the next in choosing today’s recipes: I started with the grilled radicchio and I notice that it calls for the same vinaigrette as for the chopped salad, so I decide to do the chopped salad.
My friend Deb recently described the La Scala Chopped Salad that she had in L.A. and has been pushing for me to add it to the t’afia menu. I had already tasted her on my version and gotten her approval so I was excited to have her in the audience with even more captive people to share it with. Deb’s ability to decipher what works about the salad is invaluable: she’s deemed the cheese, the baby chickpeas and the salami as must-have’s; mushrooms she would like me to leave out. Alice’s version is pretty basic with egg, bacon, avocado, cheese and tomato. For our chopped salad in class, I encourage the radical search and prep of local ingredients like cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, beets, the last of the heirloom tomatoes, green onions, radishes, fall corn, green beans, zucchinis, yellow squash, et cetera! The tricks here are: adding a sharp red wine vinaigrette; dressing the salad aplenty; and having the veggies blanched and chopped consistently enough to absorb the vinaigrette and blend it all together.
I do the beets separately and place around the salad (or just on top) so they don’t bleed to pink on everything. Romano-pecorino adds salty goodness and chewy texture. The baby garbanzos add a soft, chalky/starchy component throughout and the artisanal salami, which we julienne, adds the fatty lushness. Everything else is chopped on the small, but chunky side – not quite a mince and not large chunks. Lettuces should be crisp and soft and contribute at least three different tastes: I choose bibb, radicchio and arugula. Romaine would also be a great choice for the crunch.