Salad Snail

August 5, 2010 § Leave a comment


It has been almost unrelentingly grey and foggy in San Francisco this summer. It’s only our third year here but those who know better agree that it was the coldest July they could remember. And if I hear THAT Mark Twain quote one more time, I might have to emigrate, which I imagine is challenging when you haven’t even finished immigrating.

Although the mornings inspire thoughts of unseasonal soups and stews, I hold on for the brief flash of sun in the afternoon before thinking about dinner. After all, we are still recovering from the culinary opulence of a holiday, one in France moreover, and a week or so of bright, fresh, vitamin-laden cooking is what we need – and crave. For such times, Yotam Ottolenghi is my guru, suggesting combinations of grains, pulses and vegetables with spices and aromatics, herbs and citrus. He does not fail me this week. I pick out bunches of almost garishly pink radishes at the farmer’s market and handfuls of fava beans in their pods. The beans will require time and effort but are worth it for their their sweet green contrast with the peppery radishes. Preserved lemons add a touch of tart saltiness and a couple of handfuls of herbs along with a slug of oil, a pinch of cumin, and a squeeze of lemon finish things off.

The first time we make the salad the star of the show, toasting fluffy pita breads to mop up the juices and a green tahini sauce which came recommended as an accompaniment. The second time, mere days later, the salad sits alongside ribs where it coolly slices through the richness. Either way, it’s a keeper and wherever you are this summer, it will provide much-needed freshness or a flash of colour to push through to sunny times ahead.

Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Serves 2-3 as a main course or 4-6 as a side salad

Note: this is a salad that does not suffer from a lack of accuracy with the measurements. The proportions below are roughly what I used, but I wouldn’t worry if you were an ounce or two out with the beans or radishes.

1/2 lb shelled fava beans (about 1 lb pre-shelled weight)
1/2 lb radishes
1/2 red onion, very finely sliced (I found some great red spring onions at the market and they worked very well)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
juice of two lemons
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and black pepper

pita breads, to serve

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the shelled fava beans and simmer for 1-2 minutes (early in the year when the favas are still small you won’t need much more than a minute; at this time of year when they are a bit bigger you will probably need the full two minutes). Drain and rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking further. Remove each bean from its skin by pinching it gently and making a small tear with your fingernail (or knife). Set aside in a medium sized bowl.
2. Cut the radishes into small wedges and add to the bowl with the favas. Add the sliced onion, preserved lemon, cilantro, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and cumin. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve with warm, toasted pita breads and green tahini sauce (optional, recipe below).

Green tahini sauce

You can use a food processor to make this sauce if you like, but it’s so easy by hand that I wouldn’t bother creating dishes to wash.

150ml tahini paste
150ml lukewarm water
juice of two lemons (around 80ml)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
30g parsley, finely chopped

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the tahini and lukewarm water, then add the lemon juice and mix till smooth. Add the crushed garlic and salt. If the mixture is too thick (it should be about the consistency of runny honey, or a loose hummus), add more water, a little at a time.
2. Stir in the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning. The sauce needs quite a lot of salt so don’t be afraid to add more.

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