Guest recipe: A professional chef’s perfect spring meal »
I never used to like salad until I worked at Parc. They paid way more attention to their salads than any vegan place I’ve worked at and you can tell—the dozens of hours I spent learning to cut herbs and shallots cleanly and efficiently, and then the seasoning conferences over a five-gallon bucket of sherry-shallot vinaigrette. Often a sous chef would taste each individual salad for seasoning before sending it out. There are salads on a level beyond that, too.
The crazy thing is that the difference between a sweet/greasy/goopy bowl of lettuce for two people and a great meal in salad form can be some chump change and maybe 10 to 15 minutes’ worth of work. While it is currently green almond season, I haven’t found them growing around Philadelphia, so here is a recipe for a cold spring soup and salad both using last year‘s almond crop and some of this years best baby vegetables:
1 clove garlic
½ lb. blanched almonds (you can either get these pre-blanched or you can do it yourself by putting raw almonds in a pot of boiling water for about two minutes, then putting them in an ice bath and rubbing the skins off.)
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
½ cup plus one Tbsp. olive oil
1 oz. of rustic bread
½ oz. slivered almonds
2 oz. olives
1/4 oz. shallots
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or just use more lemon juice)
1 bulb baby fennel
2 small radishes
2 baby carrots
1 big crimini mushroom
1 baby beet
1 cup small flavorful greens—arugula, pea shoots, purslane, etc.
8 leaves parsley
½ bunch chives
We start with the soup.
A lot of people are familiar with tomato gazpacho, a cold soup of Spanish origin. Tomatoes have only been in Europe since the 1500s, but Spain is home to another great soup served cold that predates that by a long-shot, sometimes called white gazpacho. This is an almond-based soup, creating creaminess from the delicious fats and proteins found in almonds, as well as from stale bread and olive oil which is added in. While non-dairy milks and creams are common now, they (and their close relatives like this soup) are also common throughout history, all over the world—from Chinese soy milk to Spanish almond cream, and hickory nut milk of the Creek Native Americans. One thing common to all of them is the fresher they are, the better. I’ve taken the basic soup recipe from Jose Andres’ Made in Spain where he makes it with figs and marcona almonds instead of the salad.
- One day before making this soup, cover your almonds with 3 cups of water and let them soak overnight. Starting things a day in advance is something I really like—it’s so un-american. Because I don’t like America [.pdf].
- The next day, bring a small pot of water to a boil and toss in your garlic. Boil for about a minute, then drain and let the garlic cool.
- Put the almonds with their soaking water in a blender with the garlic, sherry vinegar, olive oil and your bread. Puree until smooth, at least two minutes. I find a lot of people think that like 15 seconds in a blender is enough—maybe for your low-fat triple banana goji berry smoothie, but not for most things. Salt to taste—this recipe will take a good deal of salt so start with 2 tsp.
- Pour this through a fine mesh sieve. At first, not much will come through. If you have a chinois you can push the liquid through. If not, instead of pushing (which will push the grainy stuff through as well) tap the side of your strainer with a spatula. The liquid will dribble through. This is the only annoying part of this recipe as it can take a good five minutes of tapping. The result will be worth it.
The vinaigrette (you can make this up to 3 days ahead):
Unlike the soup, you will want this vinaigrette to be chunky, so either use a food processor or mince these things with a knife.
- Spread your slivered almonds on a sheet tray and toast them in the oven at 325 for about six minutes, till golden (you can do this another day in advance, too). Let them cool. Pulse them through a food processor or just crumble them in your hands. Put them in a bowl.
- Drain (and pit if necessary) your olives and put them in the food processor until they are pretty evenly minced, scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be.
- Mince your shallot and juice your lemon.
- Mix the almonds, olives, lemon juice, vinegar (if using), oil and shallots in a bowl. Whisk together. Season with salt and pepper and adjust your oil and lemon juice/vinegar as necessary.
- Using a mandolin, a sharp knife, or a vegetable peeler, shave your fennel, mushroom, radish, and carrot as thin as possible while maintaining evenness.
- Then shave your beet, keeping it separate.
- Pick your parsley leaves. Mix your non-beet vegetable shavings with your parsley and greens and dress with the green olive vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste as you mix.
Ball up one portion of salad (1 medium handful) to place in the center of each bowl try to get some height. Pour ¾ cup of soup into each bowl, around the salad. Place 3 or 4 beet shavings on top of each portion. Mince your chives. Drizzle your soup with olive oil and sprinkle it with chives and coarse sea salt. Serve with toast or, preferably, fresh grilled bread.
Mark Tinkleman is committed to a radically better future for all of humanity. He is a cook by profession, was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and has worked at award-winning vegan and omni restaurants in New York and Philadelphia. He lives with his beautiful partner and their cat in Philadelphia. Go Philly!