This isn't the first cookbook that Mindy Fox has written. Actually, it's her third. But, unlike the previous two that she has co-authored, Salads: Beyond the Bowl is unique in that it contains 100 recipes. All for some variation of a salad...
Does the word "salad" make you yawn? Scare you, perhaps? OK, fine, but don't roll your eyes and stop reading this post just yet. Why? Because, I think I can change your leaf-hating prerogative. Look, I'll admit that, up until last night, "salad" frightened me and made me yawn, too. I mean, it's generally so boring. So...healthy. Cold. Wet. And it never seems to have the right ratio of dressing to greens. In fact, just typing out these boring, rainy adjectives is making me yawn...
However, I figured that, if I was going to attend the cookbook launch for an author who was quoted as saying, "The one food that I would take with me to a desert island would be salad," I knew that I had better start practicing my best "salad poker face."
When I arrived at the serene loft space for the launch, I was taken aback by the gorgeous, poster-sized photos of Mindy's salads adorning the walls. A bowl of greens topped with crumbled feta, grilled shrimp, and pickled purple onions - a close-up shot of octopus tentacle "tendrils," set against a black background. Those were just two of my favorite images.
As I made my way further in to the space, I came upon a table topped with two different salad samples. Salads that looked nothing like the generic, leafy, green crap that I so often refrain...and run from.
Clearly, Mindy and I had not been eating the same salads all of these years...
Blueberries, Feta, and Mint: How often do you see blueberries and feta cheese together? Never. I knew that I had to sample this salad first, because I was so perplexed by its unique ingredients.
The sweetest, most plump blueberries were topped with salty feta cheese crumbles, torn mint leaves, sea salt crystals, coarsely-ground black pepper, and finished with a heavy drizzle of a strong, rich and peppery olive oil. It would be safe to say that this is the "salad" that changed the way I think about salads.
PS: I bought Mindy's cookbook and will share this recipe with you, further below!
Panzanella di Farro: Based on looks, alone, I wasn't as eager to sample this salad. Maybe it was all of those vegetables? However, after one bite, I was blown away by its electrifying flavor and burst of different textures.
A melange of briny, sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, corn kernels, and edible flowers were combined with plump barley beads and tossed in a savory, garlic-y dressing that exploded with pep and delight.
Now, in addition to Mindy's mind-blowing salads, a handful of her finest food-and-wine purveyor friends provided accompaniments that perfectly complimented Ms. Fox's recipes:
Bountiful bread baskets from Hot Bread Kitchen
A Grana Padano cheese wheel
*Did you know that Grana Padano cheese is lactose-free? Now that is some food-for-thought!
A phenomenal olive oil tasting, courtesy of DeMedici Imports
*Did you know that olive oil tastings and wine tastings are almost identical in structure?
In the top picture, orange segments were sprinkled with sea salt and paired with Colonna, a very light, subtle olive oil. The sample was consumed like a "shot."
In the bottom picture, a piece of French chocolate was sprinkled with sea salt and paired with Albereto, a heavier, more spicy and peppery olive oil. This sample was also consumed like a "shot."
Both samples were delightful, but my preference was the Albereto. Though that *could* be because it was paired with French chocolate!
An exquisite brut, courtesy of Ferrari
As if the evening could not get more exciting or delicious, the lovely Gail Simmons arrived! Moments after my irregular, star-struck heartbeat resumed its regular pace, I walked over to the cookbook-topped table, and began to flip through its glossy pages and intrigue-provoking chapters. And, that's when it hit me: Salads don't have to be boring, one-note, restrictive "dieter's lunches." No, they can be amazingly delicious side dishes or even entrees, incorporating fruits, grains, meat, fish, poultry, cheese, nuts...you name it. "That's it. I have to have this cookbook!" I exclaimed to my friend, Helen.
Afer purchasing Salads: Beyond the Bowl, I approached Mindy to congratulate her and confess that, because of this particular evening, I had been transformed in to a "salad optimist." Oh, and I also asked her to autograph my copy. :)
Like Mindy says, it's not so much the "health" aspect of salads; for her, it's "...how delicious and show stopping a well-made salad can be." Because, at the end of the day, shouldn't healthy also taste fabulous? Salads: Beyond the Bowl certainly makes that possible.
And, speaking of, I cannot WAIT to whip up Mindy's amazing recipe for "Blueberries, Feta, and Mint," which I plan to make this weekend! You, should, too!
RECIPE: Blueberries, Feta, and Mint
Ingredients - serves 4
- 3 cups blueberries (about 1.5 pints)
- 1 cup mint leaves, large leaves torn
- 5 ounces feta cheese (1 cup), crumbled
- 4 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaky course sea salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
Divide the blueberries among small shallow serving bowls, then sprinkle with the mint and cheese. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over each serving. Crush several generous pinches of salt over each dish and sprinkle with the pepper
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle