Me and this salad go way back. In 2007 – you know, back in the days when I imagine that all of our conversations might have gone “What should we do today?” “Oh, I don’t know, anything we want.” – I had this salad at the then new-ish Spotted Pig in the West Village and attempted to recreate it. It didn’t go well and because I was as mature then as I am now, I had a tantrum and didn’t get back to it until 2009, at which point I made a roasted carrot dish with a bit of cumin and topped it with avocado slices that had been tossed with some lemon and everyone was happy. However, in 2011, Jean-Georges Vongerichten published a book of his homecooking favorites including this salad, which is also on the menu at ABC Kitchen and in 2012, April Bloomfield included the recipe in her first cookbook and I’ve thought it might be nice to circle back to these more complexly spiced and textured versions.
Can I veer off for a moment here? [I mean, that’s kind of my thing, not being able to finish a sentence without at least one other tangentially-related sentence inside it.] Okay, so I get a lot of cooking ideas from restaurants I go to and I jot them down but it’s not because I want to do anything sinister like pretend I came up with them first, but because I want to do something with the impression it made on me. It’s like going to a museum and admiring the soft colors in a painting and realizing you want to soften the palette in your own artwork; nobody is going to mistake you for Monet any more than anyone is going to mistake me for Beyoncé if I buy thigh-high tights and wear them as pants. (They’re more likely, in fact, beg me to never do this again.) People have said to me, “Why don’t you just ask the chef for their recipe?” or “But this recipe is published! Don’t you want to make their version?” but I actually don’t for two reasons. First, I want to stay true to what I remembered about it, even if it might have been incorrect, because it was my impression that got me daydreaming about a new flavor combination or approach to an ingredient. Second, holy moly, are chef recipes usually a headache! For restaurant purposes, this makes a ton of sense (each element prepared separately before service so it can be assembled and cooked to order) but to cook like this at home – at dinnertime no less, when everyone is hungry – is madness and a short path to being so exhausted you might need a week of takeout to recover.
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