Get creative and spring into salad

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

By Michael Hastings
Springing into salads is an annual ritual this time of year, and salads offer lots of choices for light side dishes and entrees.
Three restaurants in the Winston-Salem area have shared some of their favorite salads.
Kevin Fisher, the chef and a co-owner of The Screaming Rooster, offers a refreshing spring peas salad. Fisher likes to cook with the seasons and buy from local farms. His salad uses in-season peas as well as radishes and fresh greens.
The salad is flavored with dill as well as lime and orange juices, and the vegetables are mixed with some crumbled feta cheese. The juices are mixed with a small amount of oil, making this salad low in calories.
Fisher said he likes that the combination of ingredients is a little out of the ordinary. “And it’s seasonal; it’s what’s available now,” he said.
Scott Richardson, the founder of The Village Tavern chain of restaurants and now its chairman and CEO, shared the signature Tavern salad that has survived many a menu revision over the years.
“I love this salad. The whole idea came from my sister (Susan Hauser),” Richardson said.
The salad combines mixed greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, bacon and blue cheese, and is tossed with a simple vinaigrette.
“The vinaigrette is a little bit sweet,” Richardson said. “What makes it so popular for me is you get that combination of salty bacon and blue cheese with the sweet vinaigrette.”
The salad makes a good side, but for lunch, the Tavern makes an entree-size portion and will even top it with chicken for diners who want to make a meal of it.
Timothy Bocholis, the chef and owner of Bistro B, shares his recipe for an entree-portion salad featuring flank steak.
Bocholis is particularly fond of Spanish and other Mediterranean flavors. His salad features roasted red peppers, asparagus and avocado. The meat gets a drizzle of chimichurri, an Argentinean parsley-garlic sauce, and the rest of the salad is tossed with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
The salad is complex, but each step is fairly simple, so it’s doable for less-experienced cooks.
It’s also flexible. People could skip the chimichurri sauce, substitute a different protein or even buy the roasted peppers instead of roasting them at home.
“You also could omit the flank steak and make it a vegetarian meal,” Bocholis said.
About the only thing these three salads have in common is cheese, which always makes a good complement to fresh vegetables and tangy salad dressing. But these three restaurateurs do look for a lot of the same characteristics in a great salad.
With his background in Mediterranean cooking, Bocholis likes salads that have lots of vegetables, usually mixed with a little protein. Tuna and shrimp also go well with salads. At the restaurant, Bocholis serves a salad with smoked duck.
He also likes salads that mix salty and sweet flavors, and that have a bit of crunch.
Richardson looks for fresh ingredients, homemade dressing and complementary and contrasting flavors.
Fisher also likes fresh ingredients — preferably straight from the farm. “I like vegetables that are fresh, that are crisp, that are in season … that are full-flavored, with a lot of texture.”
Spring Peas Salad
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. lime juice
Grated zest of 1 lime
2 tsp. local honey
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
4 C. fresh shelled peas
(from about 4 pounds peas in
pods) or 1 pound frozen petite
peas, thawed
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 C. crumbled feta cheese
3 C. fresh pea tendrils or pea
sprouts (optional)
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and toast until aromatic and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Cool; grind finely in spice mill.
Whisk orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, honey and cumin in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil; stir in dill. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Cook peas in pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 5 minutes for fresh (or about 2 minutes for frozen). Drain; rinse under cold water, then drain well. Transfer to large bowl. Add cucumber, radishes, feta and dressing; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Divide salad among serving bowls. If desired, top each with some pea tendrils or sprouts. Serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
— Kevin Fisher, chef and co-owner of The Screaming Rooster
Char-Grilled Flank Steak Salad
(with Asparagus, Avocado and Sun-Dried Tomato)
1 pound flank (or hangar)
steak, trimmed of fat
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. minced rosemary
Salt and freshly ground
black pepper to taste
1/2 pound asparagus,
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 onion, cut into strips
1 avocado
Lime juice
1 pound mesclun spring
salad mix
4 ounces sun-dried tomato
vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 ounce fresh basil leaves,
thinly sliced
4 ounces Maytag blue
cheese, crumbled (or
other cheese, such
as chevre goat cheese)
2 ounces Argentinean
chimichurri (recipe below)
Rub flank steak with garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for a few minutes to bring to room temperature.
Blanch asparagus in boiling salted water for about 1 minute. Quickly plunge into ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry.
Char peppers on grill or in oven broiler, turning as needed until blackened on all sides. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool enough to handle, gently remove blackened skin, open pepper with knife and remove all seeds. Cut into medium strips and reserve.
Place onion strips in saute pan with a small amount of oil and cook on low heat, moving onions every 3 to 4 minutes until a light golden-brown (caramelized) color is achieved. Set aside.
Cut avocado into quarters. Cut each quarter into 3 strips and season with salt and lime juice. Set aside.
To assemble salad, place mesclun greens in a bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste; add the basil. Divide salad onto 4 equal plates. Arrange some peppers and onions on each plate. Crumble cheese on each plate. Place avocado strips in corners of each plate. Arrange asparagus so that tips are facing toward center of each plate, building height.
Cook flank steak on grill or in saute pan to desired temperature. Slice against grain on the bias and lay over top of salad. Drizzle flank steak with chimichurri and enjoy.
Yield: 4 salads
— Chef Timothy Bocholis, owner of Bistro B
Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
1/4 C. sun-dried tomatoes in
olive oil, minced
1 minced shallot
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 C. red-wine vinegar
1/2 C. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
Salt and freshly ground black
Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until ingredients combine to form an emulsion.
Yield: 1 cup
— Chef Timothy Bocholis, owner of Bistro B
Argentinian Chimichurri
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbs. minced oregano
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
1 to 2 Tbs. extra-virgin
olive oil
2 tsp. minced shallots
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in bowl.
— Chef Timothy Bocholis, owner of Bistro B
Tavern Salad
4 C. mixed salad greens
1/4 C. diced tomatoes
(1/4-inch pieces)
4 ounces Tavern
(recipe below)
1/2 C. sliced mushrooms, 1/4-inch thick
1/2 C. crumbled
blue cheese
1/4 C. diced crisp cooked
bacon (1/2-inch pieces)
12 pieces julienned red onion (1/8-inch matchsticks)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the salad greens, tomatoes and vinaigrette. Toss well until the vegetables are well-coated with dressing.
Evenly pile a quarter of the greens mixture in a serving bowl. Top with a quarter of the mushrooms, cheese, bacon and onion. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Yield: About 4 servings
— Adapted from The Village Tavern
Tavern Vinaigrette
1/4 C. cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed
through a garlic press
3/4 C. vegetable oil (or a blend
of 80 percent soybean oil
and 20 percent olive oil)
Freshly ground black pepper
to taste, optional
Place all ingredients in a jar. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.
Note: If making this in a bowl, first whisk vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic together; then gradually whisk in oil. This recipe makes more than is needed for the accompanying Tavern Salad recipe. Store extra dressing in the refrigerator.
Yield: About 1 cup
— Adapted from The Village Tavern.