fall harvest salad
october 24, 2012
There are two friends with whom I dine weekly. At dinner we announce “we are salad people”, meaning that most of our meals together include a nice salad. We like chopped salads, eaten with a big spoon, and fluffy salads eaten with a proper fork. Generally served alongside the main course, our salads include myriad ingredients: bitter, sweet, salty, tangy, chewy and creamy. My friends live close to what is undoubtedly the best of Richmond’s many farmer’s markets, the South of the James Market at Forest Hill Park. A recent stroll through this Saturday morning market yielded inspiration for a fall harvest salad.
First stop was the stand for Amy’s Garden
, manned by Amy Hicks’ husband George Ferguson and prime spot for all things organically grown. I was dazzled by the stunning display of brilliantly colored vegetables and chose, with some difficulty, purple speckled dragon’s tongue heirloom beans, mustard greens, arugula and rainbow Swiss chard. Next up was Teal Brooks of Pine Fork Farm
, who works land once owned by Amy and George. That day she had some gorgeous French radishes.
Other vendors at this lively and well attended market offer unpasteurized cheeses, humanely raised meats, handmade pasta, crusty loaves of fragrant bread, tempting baked goods both sweet and savory and aromatic coffees made from locally roasted beans. Live music from bands and solo singers fills the air and smoke chugs from food trucks selling substantial breakfast and lunch fare. Tearing myself away from the market, I headed home to prepare one of my favorite meals.
organic mustard greens from Amy’s Garden
brilliant Swiss chard from Amy’s Garden
below : dragon’s tongue beans from Amy’s Garden
French radishes from Pine Fork Farm
Pomegranates are now in season and I love their jewel like shape and crunchy snap. Pecans and dried cranberries are available year round, but to me they say “fall is in the air – add us to everything “. This time of year you’ll see lots of pecans and cranberries in both sweet and savory dishes on the menus of The Good Eats Company personal chef service. If you think butternut squash can only be enjoyed cooked, let me change your mind with this dish; you’ll thank me for it. A salty creamy cheese makes this salad more substantial, but may be omitted for the vegan version.
Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk prep and presentation. Greens may be washed and spun dry and vegetables chopped the day before. You can also seed the pomegranate and crumble the goat cheese the day before (some markets now sell fresh pomegranate seeds, saving you the trouble of stained hands and pith removal). The vinaigrette may be made up to a week in advance. To make the most beautiful arrangement of salad, use a large dinner plate, preferably white. Use a busily patterned plate for a plainly dressed leafy salad; white plates show an artful display of ingredients to best advantage. If your guests are serving themselves, by all means use salad servers, but if you are plating and taking salad to the table, use clean hands to toss the salad. You get a good feel for what’s in the bowl and you avoid bruising delicate leaves. Here are the tricks of the trade to quickly and efficiently assemble salad plates :
- lay all plates, preferably chilled, on counter for easy access
- with clean hands, toss all ingredients except cheese with just enough dressing to coat
- add a pinch of sea salt and a couple grinds of black pepper, to perk flavor
- divide greens equally among plates; for height, “sprinkle” greens as if you are making a pyramid
- divide the remaining ingredients in the salad bowl equally among the plates
- lastly, add bits of cheese and serve immediately
fall harvest salad
by Michele Humlan The Good Eats Company
6 cups mixed fall greens (swiss chard, arugula, mustard greens), washed and dried
1 cup julienned butternut squash
1 cup diagonally cut heirloom snap beans
4 large French radishes, julienned
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted at 325 for 12 minutes and cooled
1/3 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (omit for vegan version)
poppyseed shallot vinaigrette
freshly ground black pepper
- Toss all ingredients except cheese in large bowl with just enough vinaigrette to coat, adding a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Pile salad greens high on each chilled plate as if making a pyramid shape.
- Divide rest of salad ingredients among the plates.
- Top with crumbled goat cheese and serve immediately.
poppyseed shallot vinaigrette
1 T finely minced shallot
1 t Dijon mustard
1/2 T agave nectar
1/2 T poppyseeds
4 T white balsamic vinegar
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Whisk all ingredients except oil in shallow bowl, then slowly whisk in grapeseed oil until nicely emulsified. Alternately, shake ingredients in glass jar, then add oil and shake vigorously. Any vinaigrette left will keep in fridge for weeks. makes 3/4 cup