What to CookSalad

Fergus Henderson's Red Salad

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Every week -- often with your help -- FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A salad with more color than you've seen all winter.

Finished salad

All winter long, we've been so good, eating our cabbage and kale

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 comes from chef and raconteur Fergus Henderson and was recommended to me by Food52er J David B, who lives in Greece and in winter will often make this salad twice a week.


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.

Finished salad

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."

salad mess

Fergus Henderson's Red Salad

Adapted from Beyond Nose to Tail (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2007)

Serves 6

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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: Beet, Cabbage, Winter, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes, Genius