Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Salad of Pea Shoots, Endive and Fennel

I'm off to Toronto, where I'll be presenting some cooking demos at various venues, including the Toronto VegFest, at Harbourfront. I had some very fresh pea shoots that I knew would never last until I get back on Monday night, so I had to think fast.

I also had a most interesting heirloom tomato that was beyond ripe, a fennel bulb, a perfect yellow pepper, a couple of Belgian endives, and a few other odds and ends. Here's what I came up with:

I cut the endive, the pepper, and half a red onion into thin strips, sliced the fennel thinly, and combined them all in a bowl with the pea shoots. For the dressing,  I pounded a handful of fresh basil and two cloves of garlic in a mortar with a little Celtic salt until it formed a frothy green juice. Then I ground in a bit of Dijon mustard and peach-infused white balsamic vinegar until well blended. Pounding and swirling away, I added the last of an excellent bottle of EVOO, made from picholine olives, in a thin stream. The smell was intoxicating, and the taste of the silky emulsion was, well, certainly worth all the pounding and grinding.

I cut the tomato into slices a little thicker than a quarter-inch, and lay two slices on each plate. Then I added the basil vinaigrette to the vegetables in the bowl and tossed them until thoroughly coated. I made mounds of the salad next to the tomato slices and drizzled some of the remaining vinaigrette all around. Then I added some very coarsely chopped brazilnuts and a few twists of the peppermill.  At the last minute, I threw a light sprinkling of chardonnay smoked salt across the tomatoes.

This one came together so fast, I really didn't have time to question what I was doing, or how it would all work. Clearly, the kitchen gods were in a good mood and generously guided my hands. This was an inspired salad--one of those things that just happen--and both my wife and I devoured it without saying a word.

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