A Belated Ode to Spring: Smoked Trout and Egg Salad Tartine + Green Salad with Peas, Radishes, and Homemade Ranch

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Yes, it’s kind of too late for good spring veggies now. And Yes, I made this over month ago with the intention of sharing it when peas, lettuce, and chives were in their prime, but I was lazy about getting my act together to post it. But also—Yes, it was so light and delicious and springy that I ate it for lunch for two weeks in a row. And Yes, it is seriously the best egg salad I’ve ever had. And Yes, you could totally redo the green salad with summer produce. I’m thinking thinly sliced cucumbers, blanched green beans, and good tomatoes.

So, let’s step inside my time machine and go back to the garden circa mid-May. The tarragon, sage, and chives were so robust that after being delighted to see them coming back, I starting willing them to stop growing already! because they were taking over the herb garden. Thanks to weeks of showers, the lettuce was looking worthy of being displayed at a farmer’s market, and it had actually stopped raining long enough for me to go outside and pick some. And the peas were finally fattening up enough to convince me that they were, in fact, sweet peas and not sugar snaps. (I checked the seed package more than once to make sure.)

Version 2These vegetables needed to get eaten—not only because they were ready to be picked, but also because I had plans to rip them up in order to make room for planting tomatoes and green beans. Look, I have limited space, and peas and lettuce don’t get to extend their rent for a month when there are summer vegetables that need to get in the ground.

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The lettuce I used, by the way, was Green Ice Lettuce from Burpee. I have planted many a mesclun mix that bolted too quickly and included some varieties with tough or bitter leaves, but this Green Ice lettuce was perfect if you’re looking for a crisp, sweet leaf. I will definitely stop experimenting with other types of lettuce and will be planting more of this next year.

I wanted to make a salad that would include my peas and other spring produce and herbs, but Woman Cannot Survive on Vegetables Alone. Egg salad to the rescue, made infinitely better with the addition of a can of smoked trout from Trader Joe’s. I held it together with more sour cream than mayo, because sour cream goes with fish, right? Bonus: if you have a super skinny dog like I do and are constantly trying to fatten her up (or at least convince her to eat her food), I can assure you that she will gobble up her whole bowl of kibble if you pour the leftover oil from the can of trout over it.

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Note: The ranch dressing is adapted, barely, from the recipe in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynn Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift.


Smoked Trout and Egg Salad Tartine + Green Salad with Peas, Radishes, and Homemade Ranch 

serves 4

For the egg salad:

  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 can, about 4 oz., smoked trout (I used a 3.9 oz. can from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. snipped chives
  • scant 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • a few grinds of freshly ground pepper
  • 4 big slices good bread; the photo shows a smallish slice of rye but in week 2 of this meal, I discovered that a generous piece of an Italian boule is better
  1. Peel and coarsely chop the eggs. In a bowl, combine everything except the bread and smash together with a fork. Adjust seasoning if needed.

For the green salad:

  • about 8 c. chopped or torn lettuce leaves
  • about 1/2 c. sweet peas, blanched for 1 minute
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 large radishes, trimmed and sliced as thinly as possible
  • fresh chive blossoms
  1. Toss everything together. Or pile the lettuce on plates and arrange the veggies on top so it looks prettier.

For the dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • splash of fish sauce
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or microplaned
  • 1 tsp. each fresh basil, fresh parsley, and fresh chives, all chopped together
  • salt and pepper
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a glass jar with a tight lid. Shake to mix well. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

For the assembly:

  1. Toast the bread slices and top them with the egg salad.
  2. Dress the salad.
  3. Eat, and marvel at how satisfying vegetables and toast are. Yum yum yum.

 

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Napa Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Edamame, and Creamy Sesame Dressing

After the last post, here’s a more seasonal lunch I made with ingredients I already had. We had some Napa cabbage and bell pepper that needed to get used up, and this is the salad that they turned into. Napa cabbage is my favorite cabbage—it’s crunchy and mild, and it lacks the toughness and pungency that some other cabbages have.

IMG_4826I wanted to use the Napa cabbage raw and make some sort of salad with it, but most of the recipes I found with it were meant to be used as side dishes, and I wanted something that would be more filling so I could take it as a one-dish meal for lunch. I went with carrot, bell pepper, and red onion for the other vegetables, partly because that’s just what I had, and —you guessed it—I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I imagine that cucumber, sugar snap peas, and/or snow peas would also be good in it.

IMG_4827For the dressing, honestly, I was hoping to re-create something similar to the sesame coleslaw at Café Asia, which is dynamite. Usually, trying to imitate something I had in a restaurant is a recipe for disaster. (Pun intended.) My version inevitably ends up significantly inferior to whatever I was trying to mimic, and it just leaves me with an even worse craving for the restaurant dish. This dressing, though—this dressing turned out pretty darn well. Just be sure to read the note about the consistency.



Note: If you’re going to use the dressing right away, you might want to thin it down with extra vinegar or some water. If you’re going to keep it on hand for a while, just let it rest. Mine got much, much thinner after a night in the fridge, and I don’t have an Alton Brown-y scientific explanation for why.

Also, for the chicken, I used the spicy asian marinade from Epicurious.


Napa Cabbage Salad with Chicken, Edamame, and Creamy Sesame Dressing

serves 2

For the dressing—you might not use all of it:

  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I used light)
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso paste
  • 4 tsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. mirin
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Taste for seasoning. I didn’t add any salt because the miso paste was salty enough.

For the rest of the salad and assembly:

  • about 4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 grilled chicken breast (or rotisserie chicken breast, or leftover chicken from whatever), sliced
  • optional garnish: toasted sesame seeds
  1. Divide the vegetables evenly onto two plates.
  2. Top with the chicken, and the sesame seeds if using.
  3. Add dressing to taste and toss. You might not use all of the dressing.

Grilled Chicken, Grated Carrot, Golden Raisin, and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

 

Where is the post-Thanksgiving post?, you ask. What should I do with my Ziploc of turkey scraps, my Tupperware of roasted cauliflower, my entire Pyrex of stuffing that didn’t get touched because we made two entire 9 x 13″ pans of it to feed 5 people (yes that actually happened) ? My answer: enjoy them as is. Personally I don’t feel any great compulsion to try to improve things like turkey and gravy and corn soufflé, and it’s pretty great to get to eat them for two or three dinners in a row. Plus when they’re leftovers you get the added bonus of not needing to cook that night and having minimal dishes to clean. (The one exception maybe being potato cakes. Maybe that will be a post for another time.)

So, there is no post-Thanksgiving post. There is, however, this salad that I actually made pre-Thanksgiving in order to clean out the fridge a bit before leaving town for the holidays. It’s one of my favorite ways to use up a small amount of lettuce and goat cheese, and I usually have all the other ingredients (chicken, raisins, lemon, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mustard) on hand.

IMG_2548By having chicken on hand, I mean boneless, skinless chicken breast. That’s right. Pork belly seems to be the current prom king of meat cuts, and boneless, skinless chicken breast is its uncool little cousin that nobody wants to be friends with, or admit they’re friends with anyway. They’re boring and bland and dry, people say. Yeah, so are plenty of things when you underseason and overcook them. So I’ll be liberal with my salt and conservative with my heat and I’ll keep using the boneless skinless chicken breast. Also, they are super cheap because they go on BOGO all the time and you can stock up on them. (See About section.)

I started making this salad while I was studying abroad in France during college. I was living in a tiny apartment that had a range but not an oven, and it was during that semester that I was taught that anyone can make Dijon vinaigrette, was first introduced to carottes râpées—a raw grated carrot salad that is ubiquitous in France—and learned that goat cheese was actually really good and wasn’t, in fact, supposed to taste the way that a goat smells. Here, instead of having carottes râpées as a side dish, they are used as an element of the salad, and a vinaigrette is used to dress the whole thing instead of just the carrots.

PS: Even when I don’t make this particular dish, I am a huge fan of grating carrots if they are going to be served raw in a salad. Unlike with chunks or slices of raw carrot, which are impossible to eat because they ricochet hopelessly off of your fork as you try to stab them, grated carrots are satisfyingly fork-friendly.


 

Grilled Chicken, Grated Carrot, Golden Raisin, and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette

serves 2

For the Grilled Chicken:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. In the winter: heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat. In the summer: preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Pat the chicken dry and pound to an even thickness. You want it to be about 1/2″ thick so that it cooks evenly.
  3. Brush your grill pan or grill with vegetable oil. (If you use olive oil it will probably smoke on medium-high.)
  4. Generously sprinkle one side of the chicken with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Place the chicken salt-and-pepper-side down on your grill pan or grill, and let it cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  6. Before turning the chicken, sprinkle the unseasoned side with more salt and pepper, then flip and cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the chicken is done.
  7. Remove the chicken from heat, tent with foil, and let it rest while you make the rest of the salad.

For the Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove of garlic, microplaned or finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste; I used about 1/8 tsp. of each

There are two ways you can make this vinaigrette. The traditional way: mix the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and garlic together. While whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil in a small stream in order to emulsify the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. With such a small batch though, I prefer the easier, more fun way: Put everything in a small jar with a tightly-fitting top and shake vigorously for 10 seconds or so.

For the Rest of the Salad:

  • about 4 cups of chopped crunchy lettuce, like romaine
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  1. Peel the carrot if you want. I usually keep it on because I’m lazy / because that’s where all vitamins are (right? isn’t that what our moms all told us?), but be warned: it will make the grated carrot turn brown if you keep the peel on. Grate the carrot in the small holes of a box grater—not the holes for hard cheese, but the smallest ones besides those.
  2. Divide the lettuce over 2 plates or bowls. Cut up the grilled chicken and divide it over the two salads. Sprinkle on any accumulated juices from the chicken.
  3. Top each salad evenly with the carrots, raisins, goat cheese, and vinaigrette. Mix it up a little to distribute the dressing and so that the goat cheese starts to melt from the heat of the chicken.
  4. If you’re a pepper fan, finish with some freshly ground black pepper.