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When I first opened my restaurant Porsena, I put a simple salad of blanched green beans, fennel, and fried almonds on the menu, inspired by the ingredients I'd raid the kitchen for when making a chopped salad. To this day, it's still one of my great “kitchen sink” salads: What goes into it or how I dress it depends what I find left over from service the night before in the salad station, or what I find in my fridge at home when I don’t feel like shopping or cooking much.
You want to combine some crisp blanched and/or raw vegetables with something briny and bright, like bottarga (salted, cured fish roe), or crunchy like tiny croutons or toasted nuts, and you want an aggressive, full-flavored dressing like this yogurt-based one.
The idea is to have a combination of fresh vegetables that are somewhat similar in flavor and texture. A good way to choose the group is to think about what’s in season at the moment. In the winter, it could be a fine julienne of raw root vegetables like carrots and fennel; in the spring, I like to pair green beans and asparagus or snap peas with some tiny new breakfast radishes; in the middle of summer, I might combine blanched little potatoes and raw zucchini.
The bottarga adds a briny flavor that I love, but you can easily swap that out that with fried croutons or toasted pine nuts, sesame seeds, or sunflower seeds, which will provide a crunchy texture.
On a good day at the restaurant, I can find any number of dressings from aioli to tahini in the salad station, but I'm happiest if we have a yogurt dressing—its bright tangy flavor marries so well with green vegetables and the salty fish flavor of bottarga.
You can make this a meal by adding in some leftover protein, like a little poached or grilled chicken or leftover cooked fish. It’s a salad that should never the same because it's not so much about shopping for the perfect ingredients as it is working with what you have.
This isn’t a shy salad: It should be a combination of many elements—the seasonal vegetables, a powerful dressing, and a crunchy textural accent. For me it’s the perfect way to repurpose leftovers into something new and delicious, and a great way to avoid wasted food.
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- 3/4 cup thick Greek yogurt or labne
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed if you want
- 2 small Persian cucumbers
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced on the bias
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated bottarga (I only use grey mullet bottarga as I have stopped eating bluefin tuna out of concern for the long term survival of the fish, so that includes bottarga made from tuna)
What's your go-to spring salad combination? Share it in the comments below!
This article originally ran on June 2, 2016.