Today: A salad with more color than you've seen all winter.
More colorful fruits and vegetables are on the way -- the glowing baby greens of spring will quickly be followed by a red hot riot of tomatoes and berries come summer. We know that. We can be patient.
I don't mean to take away from those very special times we're about to have with sunnier ingredients. But I've got a salad for you -- a Red Salad -- that will upstage July.
It gets most of its color from beets, the drunken mess of the vegetable world. (You could argue that any salad with beets becomes a red salad, but this one is deliberate and quite clever.)
You'll stir together snippets of raw beet, purple cabbage, and red onion with balsamic, olive oil, and salty capers. What wasn't already red is instantly stained.
Then you plate a heap of it next to some creme fraiche (or strained yogurt if you're J David B) and chervil (or curly parsley if you -- like me -- don't know where the hell to find chervil).
It's earthy, tangy and sweet, like a livelier borscht -- one that makes you want to tear into your next course, rather than go curl up in a warm place.
The genius of this recipe is only enhanced by Henderson's fanciful writing style -- it's inexact, but a salad doesn't really need rigor. You're better served with Lewis Carroll-like imaginary descriptives. That blob looks nustled like a good friend, right? I bet it wouldn't, had I been told to "garnish".
Here's the best part: you've presented your diners with the tools to make fireworks on the plate. As Henderson's last line explains, "A very striking salad ready for the eater to mess up."
Adapted from Beyond Nose to Tail (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2007)
For the salad:
2 raw beets, peeled and grated
1/4 raw red cabbage with its core cut out, very finely sliced
1 small red onion, peeled, cut in half from top to bottom and finely sliced
6 healthy dollops of crème fraîche
2 healthy bunches of chervil or 1 bunch of curly parsley, picked
For the dressing:
Healthy splashes of extra virgin olive oil
A little gesture of balsamic vinegar
A small handful of extra-fine capers
Sea salt and black pepper
Photos by James Ransom