Saturday, May 18, 2019


Congratulations to my friend, Donna Gelb, co-author of Saladish, by Ilene Rosen, which just won a James Beard book award for Vegetable-Focused Cooking. 

Ilene Rosen is chef and co-owner or R&D Foods, a Brooklyn shop, where she makes every salad herself every single day. She previously was a chef at City Bakery in New York, where her flair with salads earned her cult following. The innovative recipes in Saladish are hers. Donna worked closely with Ilene in recipe development and testing, following her on the job to get a feel for her work.

I´m always looking for inspiration in putting together salads and this book has it, cover to cover. They’re salads that can serve as light starters, sides or full meals. The recipes are mostly vegetarian (even vegan), but they are easy to embellish with meat, poultry, fish or cheese, according to your personal tastes.

Don’t expect a cliché tuna salad, nor a generic pasta salad. While there are four variations on potato salad, none of them is your old-fashioned sort with mayo (new potatoes with herbs and a yogurt dressing; potatoes and cucumbers with caraway-mustard dressing; jazzed-up potato salad with olive oil and pickled carrots, and, one I can’t wait to try, red potatoes with chorizo and roasted grapes.
Saladish opens with chapters packed with hints, “How to Assemble a Salad,” “The Saladish Pantry,” and “The Saladish Tool Kit.” Recipes (most beautifully photographed by Joseph De Leo) are divided into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter chapters.

I’m working my way through "Spring," starting with snap peas, the last from my garden, with olive oil and lavish quantities of chives and mint. Easy-peasy. It’s too late for the Baby Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto, as I pulled up the last of the carrots weeks ago. “Every-Leafy-Green-You-Can-Find Salad,”with an orange marmalade dressing (what a terrific idea) is coming up soon. The rice noodle salad with Asian herbs and smoked tofu salad with chive buds both sound like my kind of hot-weather dish. Spring brunch? Smoked trout and pumpernickel bread in a salad with cucumbers, apples and, yes, dill.

The recipe I chose to make this week is called “It’s All Green.” It consists of several different (green) vegetables cooked crisp-tender to be served with four different dips plus a sweet lime salt.

Many of these recipes are Asian-inflected, calling for rice vinegar and “flavorless vegetable oil.” I considered “flipping” them to Mediterranean, using my usual extra virgin olive oil, but decided that wasn’t a fair test. So I bought a bottle of sunflower oil. Pretty exotic for me!

It’s All Green
(Todo Verde)

These recipes are excerpted from Saladish by Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb (Artisan Books; copyright © 2018). I’ve added recipe titles in Spanish and my comments in italic. The photos are mine.

Serve a selection of green vegetables for dippers with these unusual dips. The dips, clockwise from the top left. are cucumber shallot, cilantro cumin, avocado mint and, at the bottom, pumpkin seed hummus. They are accompanied by celery sticks, snap peas, asparagus, zucchini slices, Belgian endive, green beans and wedges of fennel.

You want approximately 3 to 4 pounds of whole vegetables for six people, and two or three dips to serve on the side, more if you are feeling green.

Serves 6 to 8.

Kosher salt
8 ounces green beans and/or sugar snap peas, trimmed, any strings removed
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed, tough stalks peeled
6 ounces zucchini, ends trimmed
2 large celery stalks
6 ounces Belgian endives
6 ounces fennel bulbs

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and ready a large bowl of ice water.
2. Add the green beans and/or snap peas to the boiling water and blanch just until they turn bright green. Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water. Return the water to a boil and repeat with the asparagus, blanching just until tender, about 2 minutes, before transferring to the ice water. Set aside.
3. Cut the zucchini lengthwise in half, lay flat on a cutting board, and slice on the diagonal into ½ -inch pieces.
4. Trim off and discard the ends of the celery stalks and cut the stalks crosswise into thirds. Cut the thirds lengthwise into thin sticks.
5. Trim the bottoms of the endives and separate the leaves.
6. Trim the root ends of the fennel and cut off the stalks, reserving any nice fronds to decorate the platter. Cut the bulbs lengthwise in half, then cut the halves into thin wedges.
7. Arrange all the vegetables on large platters or trays and serve with the dips. 

Cucumber Shallot Dip
(Pepino con Chalota)

This cucumber salad with a touch of Asian fish sauce and rice vinegar would make a terrific side dish with grilled fish.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

1 cup diced seedless cucumber
1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil, or regular basil
½ cup finely minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Combine the cucumber, fish sauce, vinegar, oil, lime juice and basil in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse to puree, scraping down the sides as necessary. Transfer to a small serving bowl and fold in the minced shallots and chives. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pumpkin Seed Hummus
(Hummus de Pepitas de Calabaza)

This savory dip makes a great spread too.  Mix any leftovers with boiled new potatoes and beans.

Makes about 2 cups.
Toasted pumpkin seeds.

2 cups pumpkin seeds, toasted
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup rice vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup hot water, or more if necessary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the pumpkin seeds and garlic in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse until uniformly ground, scraping down the sides as necessary. The mixture will be rough and sandy looking.
2. Add the mustard and vinegar and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Drizzle in the hot water, processing until it is the consistency of thick hummus. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(Note: The pumpkin seeds I bought were dark green, not beige like the ones shown in Saladish. If you need to toast the seeds, here's how. Cook 2 cups pumpkin seeds in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain well and pat dry. Combine the seeds with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Spread them on a rimmed sheet pan and roast them in a 300ºF oven, turning once or twice, for 30 minutes. Cool.)

Avocado Mint Dip
(Aguacate con Hierba Buena)

Chopped mint with smooth avocado is sensational.

(Note: Mint with avocado! Radical. Did the authors intend to omit salt? I made the recipe as given—no salt—and loved it. A perfect dip with those leaves of Belgian endive.) 

Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

1 large ripe avocado
5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
A pinch of cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons water

Pit the avocado and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor or into a blender. Add the lemon juice, mint and cayenne and pulse to puree, pouring in the water as you go. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cilantro Cumin Dip
(Salsita de Cilantro y Comino)

The cilantro-cumin combo is sort of Middle Eastern, but rice vinegar makes it completely different. I used leftover dip to marinate chicken thighs and roasted them on a sheet pan at high temperature.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

½ cup vegetable oil
5 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. Pour the oil into a small saucepan and add the cumin seeds. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Let cool.
2. Put the cilantro, vinegars, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the cumin oil and seeds until the mixture is emulsified. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ilene Rosen (left) and Donna Gelb at the James Beard awards presentation. Their book Saladish won for best vegetable-focused cookbook.

I’ve cooked with Donna Gelb, in my kitchen and in hers, and she's helped me with recipe testing. Here are some earlier blog posts featuring her:
Mistress of the Fire.
Eating Around America.
Paella Made in the USA.
Shopping Organic.
Taste of Spain in New York.

Saladish (Ilene Rosen with Donna Gelb; Artisan, 2018, New York) is available here.

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