opinions on food and travels

Bittman Salad 29: Balsamic Cherries & Bitter Greens

Rainier Cherries

There are any number of reasons I’ve decided to chop and chew my way through the 101 “Simple Salads” Mark Bittman conjured up for the summer season. Julie & Julia has been simmering in my mind since I finished reading the book a month or two ago, and as the movie opening date approaches and the resulting hubbub ensues, I guess I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about not only cooking my way through something to ground myself, but cooking period.  Sadly, my kitchen hasn’t been getting the workout it’s used to.  Does making salad count as cooking? Will Mr. Bittman deem it a stunt and suggest I’m a less than serious salad maker?  Is it possible that food snobs everywhere will comment on my efforts and suggest I’m not worthy of sampling this treasure trove of healthy minimalist fare?

Or, perhaps, there is the real reason I’ve decided to embark on this quest:   I will benefit from all the lovely green things I’m ingesting and could lose weight in the process.  Think about it:  101 salads in 101 days.  That’s a bit of roughage.  It’s healthy, easy and because I’ve scanned all the combinations Bittman suggests, I know I’ll find something new to add to my old standards.

I have some planning to do with organizing the salads into groups with common ingredients to make shopping more manageable, but in the meantime, I’ve begun with #29.  Why?  Because I had  Rainier Cherries in the fridge that were in desperate need of use.  I’m thinking that’s as good a reason as any.

Cherries & Bitter Greens Salad

1 c. radicchio, chopped

3 c. escarole, sliced in strips

watercress

3/4 c. cherries, halved

2 T sliced almonds

extra virgin olive oil, drizzled

balsamic vinegar, 2 glugs

Maldon salt

freshly cracked pepper

In a small saute pan, drizzle a bit of olive oil.  Add the cherry halves to the pan and pour the balsamic vinegar over. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the cherries are heated through and have begun to soften.  Remove from heat.

Escarole Radicchio

While the cherries are cooking, chop the radicchio and slice the escarole.  On a large dinner plate, mound the escarole and sprinkle the radicchio over.  Add the watercress.

When the cherry mixture has cooled a bit, drizzle the sauce over the greens, add the cherries, sprinkle on the almonds, salt and pepper.  If desired, add a bit more balsamic vinegar.

Serves two or three as a starter —  one for lunch or dinner.

Bittman Salad 29-2

Notes:

  • The quantities in this recipe are approximate.  Use your own judgment.
  • I really enjoyed this salad.   Actually, I was surprised about how much I enjoyed it, but I had a sneaking suspicion, or wouldn’t have started with this one.
  • It’s all about the perfectly loaded fork.  A cherry with every bite is simply fabulous.
  • I enjoy bitter greens such as watercress, escarole, endive, arugula, dandelion greens, etc.  I realize that many people do not enjoy them as much as I do, but I think it’s because they don’t know how to prepare them.  The sweetness of the cherries and balsamic vinegar are PERFECT for this salad.  Seriously.
  • Bittman mentions that hazelnuts should go in this salad and I agree, but I couldn’t find any.  Hence, the almonds, because cherries and almonds pair so very nicely.
  • I decided not to cook the cherries until they fell apart or as Bittman suggests, “break down.”   They were quite soft, but retained their structure and it worked.
  • With the idea of bitter firmly in my mind for this recipe, I bought a mixture and then decided which I’d used after I got home.  Dandelion greens and arugula didn’t make the cut because I was trying to keep it simple buy using only three, but they would be lovely in this.  If you’re new to bitter greens, I’d suggest using only one and adding butter lettuce, or red/green leaf as a base.
  • I had this for lunch.  The guys aren’t home right now, so it saved me from having to serve it for dinner.  Although I do normally give them opportunities to try all kinds of salads, this may have been a bit much for them, but they surprise me sometimes.  All the more reason to serve something different from time to time, right?
  • On the nutritional side of things, cherries are full of potassium, manganese, and are a good source of vitamins C and K.  Escarole was used for medicinal purposed thousands of years ago and is supposed to aid in digestion.  Normally, adding escarole to a salad with less bitter greens is a good way to introduce the vegetable.

Bittman Salad 29-1

What’s up next?  I happen to have some baby bok choy, so it appears that #11 could be next.  Of course I do have cucumbers and there are lots of variations I can make with those.

For the record:  I’m planning on making five salads from Bittman’s list each week.  That means I’ll finish sometime near November 1, long after everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere has forgotten summer and salad.  In San Diego, we’re lucky to have warm weather well into October and even November, so I can’t use that excuse to abandon this  project.  **Unfortunately, life’s business is what kept me from finishing this. Excuses, excuses!



Gonzo