If you spent this past spring in soggy New England dreaming of warm dry weather while gazing at the mural in a Greek restaurant then the current heat wave probably finds you in a bit of a stupor, although perhaps not of happiness.
The solution? Get yourself to a farmers’ market – or an actual farm – and start grabbing whatever looks good. Nothing takes to no-cooking improvisation like salad, especially in hot weather.
In our case we went to Allandale Farm (www.allandalefarm.com), which I tell everyone is in Brookline, Massachusetts because I live in Brookline, we buy our Christmas trees from them, and I want bragging rights to a great local farm.
In fact, as Allandale’s Farmstand Manager Gretchen Coffin recently informed me, the border between Brookline and Boston runs right through the farm, so as the last working farm in both Boston and Brookline, it’s a bit like a culinary Statue of Liberty, except that instead of New York and New Jersey the combatants are Brookline and Boston. Regardless of which part is located where, Allandale ought to be considered some sort of national treasure. As you slice Allandale’s gorgeous chioggi beets at home you can ponder the strange reality that over 250 years ago the same ground that nurtured those beets was supplying vegetables for contemporaries of Paul Revere.
These days, instead of colonial yeomen galloping past, it’s Jody and me, early in the morning on our road bikes. The cruel aspect of a stripped down road bike is that you can only carry what fits in the back pockets of your jersey, too small to load up on beets and radishes and fresh strawberries. Ah, the sacrifices one makes to scream along at 13 miles per hour. This salad resulted when we couldn’t stand it any longer and just got in the damn car and drove out there.
If you’d like to know a little more about Allandale Farm, check out their website. Their address says they’re in Brookline. And while you’re eating your salad you can dream of those refreshingly chilly days of spring.
Allandale Farm Salad
Makes 4 generous servings
This recipe calls for ¼ cup pickling juice. If you made the Pickled Cherries from last week’s post you can steal some pickling juice from them. Or you can make just enough for this recipe by heating ¼ cup white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of water until the sugar dissolves.
- 4 small chioggi beets
- ¼ cup pickling juice
- 3 heads baby fennel
- 8 small radishes
- 4 small white turnips
- 2 small zucchini
- 1 spring onion
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2-4 tablespoons chopped herbs… I used dill and parsley
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar + more if needed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cup spicy greens like crinkle cress or arugula
- 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
Trim the leaves off the beets. Leave a bit of stem as a handle if you’re going to use a mandolin.
Scrub the beets. Using a mandolin, slice the beets paper thin. Toss in a bowl with the pickling liquid. Allow to macerate 30 minutes.
Trim off the tops of the fennel heads. Save for another use (blanch before using).
Using a mandolin, slice the fennel paper thin. Put into a bowl and cover with tepid water. Swirl a few times and soak a few minutes to allow any sand to fall out. Drain, rinse and pat dry.
Trim off the tops of the radishes and turnips and save for another use.
Scrub the radishes and turnips. Using a mandolin, slice paper thin.
Scrub the zucchini and slice into ⅛-inch rounds.
Slice the spring onion paper thin.
Put the fennel, radishes, turnips, zucchini and onion in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Add the vinegar, herbs and the olive oil and toss well. Add the beets, drained of all but a tablespoon or so of pickling juices, and greens and toss again. Taste and add more vinegar as needed and toss well. The amount of vinegar you need will depend on the tartness of the pickling juices.
Add the walnuts and toss again. Sprinkle with the blue cheese and serve.
This salad epitomizes the Garum Factory approach to cooking. Use what’s in front of you, don’t mess with it much, sit down and eat.
A mandolin makes short work of slicing these vegetables, even the cheap plastic one we use at home. If mandolins scare you then Google “mandolin glove” for a cut-resistant glove you can wear while slicing the vegetables. The last time I looked Amazon.com had at least three different brands, all cheap.
The Italians taught me that almost any vegetable may be eaten raw if it’s sliced thin enough. The notable exceptions are potatoes and eggplant. I had my doubts about beets – raw beets taste a little too earthy for me – but the color of Allandale’s gorgeous chioggi beets tempted me into playing with them. The color of chioggi beets fades during cooking; and their distinct candy cane stripes blur and blend into each other.
Briefly pickling the beets saved the day. They surrendered some of their earthiness to a sweet and sour crunch, and the colors remained sharp and vibrant.
I love blue cheese and walnuts, but I almost never order them in a salad when eating out. In order to seem generous, restaurants heap their salads with cheese and walnuts and then – surprise! – you can’t taste anything else. This salad is full of spicy elements that hold their own against the cheese and nuts.
Don’t make this salad ahead of time. It’s meant to be prepared – and then consumed. Moisture will start to bleed from the thinly sliced vegetables if they sit for too long.