If you are one of those people who plan their vacations around food, I would bookmark my most recent giveaway post. People! You live in places with incredible bounty and I look forward to each and every one of your packages. Just kidding. I really did love reading where you are from and what is delicious from your part of the world. I think we are lucky here with the amazing produce and access to great wine, not to mention many different world markets. But clearly, I need to get out more.
Our lovely winner, picked by a random generator is comment #81. Melissa, in your own words, where do you live and what would you include?
I love this question! I’m a reader from Plymouth, Michigan, so I would have to include some Traverse City cherries along with cherry jam and cherry coffee, Olga bread, Macainac Island fudge, Sanders Hot Fudge and Bumpy Cake, Vernors, and some custard filled baklava from my favorite downtown bakery. And, while it is a Michigan original, I would probably leave the coney dog and out of the package :)
Melissa, send me an email and I will send you the goods!
Onward. Salad. A couple of weeks ago, I took a class from a local celebrity – Ethan Stowell. Mr. Stowell has four well-regarded restaurants in our fair city – three of which I have had the pleasure of dining. He also has a new cookbook and has just started selling his pasta in gourmet markets around town. The class I took was all about gnocchi, something I have made before without great success. Seeing as it is one of Randy’s all-time favorite things to eat, I thought learning from a master would be great.
I can tell you, it is wonderful to take a cooking class now and then, especially if you are a teacher. Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and be a student. I enjoy watching someone else’s style and there always seem to be terrific tidbits that I take home. Like watching Ethan prepare this salad and noticing that he peeled a fennel bulb. You know, you get a fennel bulb and the outside is all bruised and, if you are me, you take off off that outer layer, but then you are left with a much diminished bulb. I learned, just from watching – nothing that he said – that you just take a vegetable peeler to that bruised outer layer and just make it right. That right there was worth the price of admission.
Ethan made a version of this salad after we had already sampled ricotta and semolina gnocchi and while potato gnocchi was on the way. In other words, something bright, fresh, and green was most welcome. He shared that he makes salad dressing in the blender or food processor and that they use canola oil rather than olive oil at his restaurants because it is more mild. He also said that the key to emulsifying when using an egg yolk (like in a creamy salad dressing or mayonnaise), is to add a couple of tablespoons of water. I came right home and made this salad, inspired. (I was inspired by the gnocchi too but just did not have the time to make any of them. Soon Randy, I promise!)
Inexplicably I was out of canola oil so I substituted with some bright green grapeseed oil. I’ve made salad dressing with grapeseed oil, Suzanne Goin’s amazing Green Goddess Dressing to be exact, and have been pleased. I’m not so sure I loved it here. We are very much a vinaigrette family and I make my dressing with a lot of bite. Maybe the creaminess was just too much for us here – although there is no cream. But we both loved the vegetables, such a nice departure from my old standby salad.
For the dressing
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup champagne vinegar
1 cup canola oil
For the salad
10 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 head frisée, any brown ends discarded, cut or torn into bite size pieces
1 head endive, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, bruised parts peeled, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced
1 medium avocado, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup herbs, such as mint, tarragon, chives, and dill
Chive blossoms as a garnish, optional
For the dressing
Put the egg yolk, water, mustard, salt, and vinegar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Turn on to blend, then pour the oil in through the feed tube. Process until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
For the salad
Put all the vegetables in a large bowl. Toss with just a bit of dressing, adding more as necessary.