A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re making a feel-good dinner in five ingredients.
Let’s play a game: The next time you go to the farmers market, bring a blindfold (a sleeping mask works, too), and a trustworthy companion. Have them lead you around while you pick three ingredients from the produce stands. Go home and turn these into a salad. The dressing doesn’t need to be fancy—just olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and salt.
Tastes good, right?
As a recipe developer, I’m supposed to tell you things like: Fish doesn’t go with cheese. Or red wine should never be served with sushi. But these X goes with Y and Y should never go with Z rules are—what’s the word I’m looking for—baloney.
Ingredients are friendlier than we give them credit for. Just about any combination of seasonal vegetables and fruits makes a good salad. And pairing that salad with just about any protein, from flaky fish to meaty pork chops, makes a good dinner.
If you still don’t believe me, no worries. I’ll go first.
Here are three ingredients in season right now: shishito peppers, corn, and blackberries. Shishitos are mild or spicy, depending on the pepper. Corn is sweet and snappy. And blackberries are tart and jammy.
Let’s start from the top. The shishitos want to be cooked, so we’ll char them in a cast-iron skillet until they go from taut to tender. And you know what else is super good charred? Corn. So we’ll char some of that, too. But not all of it, because raw corn, still juicy from the cob, is ridiculously delicious.
You could cook the blackberries—say, sauté with some oil and salt—and maybe when you take this recipe for a spin around the block, you will. I opted to leave them raw, with the chubbier ones halved, so their juices can add to the dressing, and the tinier ones whole, so they can burst between your teeth.
Now comes the part where I tell you that this salad was destined for salmon. Because salmon can be pan-seared in the same skillet where you just charred the shishitos and corn. And its buttery flavor is a rich contrast to the spicy peppers and sweet berries and corn. And since you used lime for the salad dressing, you can use more lime to squeeze on top of the fish.
And all of this is true. But what’s also true is that this salad would be lovely with swordfish, tuna, or shrimp. Or grilled pork chops or baked chicken thighs. And, beyond the happy ingredient combination, that’s really the best part.
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.
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