A Plug & Plate Recipe ©
April 16, 2021. Dear Daughters– I was so happy to hear from you kids that you’re supporting local farmers with the Community Supported Agriculture (“CSA”) shares you set up for this year, I came up with what I call “Plug & Plate Recipes” to help you enjoy all that impeccable produce. Plug & Plate Recipes are simple, satisfying and straightforward recipes that let you easily swap out ingredients and plug in new ones to make dozens of delicious variations of that recipe. We’ll start today with a springtime version of a Plug & Plate recipe for Vegetable Peeler Salad For Any Season and follow that up over the next few weeks with springtime Plug & Plate recipes for a main course and dessert.
The “plug-ins” I’m using for the spring season that is upon us are baby arugula, fennel and parmesan, but you could easily plug-in spinach, strawberries, sliced almonds and feta; a spring mix of lettuces with baby carrots, peas and radishes; baby lettuce with turnips and chives or any other spring themed combination that pleases your palate. As the seasons turn, move on to plug-in combinations like Bibb lettuce, ribbons of summer squash and tomatoes in the summer; kale, parsnip, apple and toasted walnuts in the fall; and radicchio, root vegetable and citrus in the winter- you get the idea!
In addition to the seasonal produce, another highlight from this salad is the vegetable peeler and how easy it makes it to prep the salad in no time at all. This inexpensive and simple kitchen tool creates impressive, paper-thin wisps of vegetable goodness in seconds, that not only look great, but offer the perfect balance of flavor in each bite.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
GET YOUR VINAIGRETTE STUFF OUT
- 1/4 cup Acid Plug-In- like your favorite vinegar or fresh citrus juice- I’m plugging in fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola or other neutral oil
- Kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and/or honey or to taste, optional for a flavor boost and smoother blend (aka “emulsification”)
- 1-2 teaspoons Thoughtful Vinaigrette Embellishments Plug-In or to taste, optional- see Lecture below
GET YOUR SALAD STUFF OUT
- 8 cups (5-7 ounces) seasonal green(s) Plug-In, cut or torn into bite sized piece if large- for spring, I’m plugging in baby arugula, which is just the right size
- 2-3 cups seasonal vegetable(s) Plug-In, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler or cut into bite sized pieces if not easily sliced- for spring, I’m plugging in 1 medium fennel bulb.
- 1 cup, or to taste, Thoughtful Salad Embellishments– for this salad I’m plugging in parmesan cheese shaved from a wedge into delicate slices with a vegetable peeler- Also, see Lecture below
COOK AND PLAY
If anyone could mix it up with a bit of acid to extraordinary results, it was Janis Joplin, so get inspired, but keep the acid to vinegar or lemon juice, while you listen to Ms. Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and get to tossing up your salad. Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!
- Shake It Up! Note- the standard vinaigrette ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but we and many others like a little more pop (and health) in our dressing, so hold back on some of the oil, taste it and add more if you like. Load lemon juice or other acid, 1/2 cup oil and, if using, mustard/honey and/or Thoughtful Vinaigrette Enhancements into a mason or similar jar or squirt bottle with cover. Secure cover on jar/bottle and shake vigorously to mix (see spilt photo below). Taste a bit on some greens- shake in some more oil if you think it needs it. Set aside.
- Spin It Around. Use a salad spinner to wash off and dry arugula.
- Shave It Off. Cut the stems off fennel, reserve some of the feathery leaves for garnish, trim bottom of bulb and cut into quarters. Use vegetable peeler, to cut slivers of fennel off bulb until you have 2-3 cups.
- Shave It Off Part II. Use vegetable peeler to also cut slivers of parmesan cheese until you have about a cup.
- Dress It Up. You will have more vinaigrette than you need- serve it on the side and refrigerate any leftovers. Just before serving, any sooner and you’ll have a soggy salad and no one wants a soggy salad- believe me-, drizzle or squirt about 1/4 cup of vinaigrette along sides and on bottom of a large bowl. Add arugula and fennel and toss with clean hands or tongs to coat with vinaigrette. You definitely DO NOT want to overdress your salad (see “no one wants a soggy salad” above), but if it looks dry add a bit more vinaigrette and toss some more. Toss with a bit of salt and pepper, tasting to add more if needed, keeping in mind the Parmesan you are just about to add will be salty. Portion on plates and top with slivers of Parmesan and a bit of fennel frond.
What’s In Season? Dads don’t necessarily look at the seasons when they cook, after all, a nice ribeye taste just as good in January as it does in July, but, as you kids know, when it comes to produce its so much better if it’s seasonal and local. What’s available by season varies depending on where you live- for example, fennel which grows from fall to spring, isn’t grown locally in the spring in many places, but that’s no big deal since you can Plug-In trimmed and thinly sliced local asparagus or whatever else may be available near you. If you’re ever not sure what’s in season near you, check out The Seasonal Food Guide website or App. It’s also very easy to combine produce for your salad when you stick with the season because, as the say, “What grows together, goes together!” Note- Remember, due to the “wonders” of modern technology- especially transportation, supermarkets often have produce available that is neither seasonal or local, so if you’re looking for seasonal and local at your local supermarket make sure to ask if what you’re putting in your basket is local and seasonal if you’re not sure.
Beyond The Vegetable Peeler. If you’re making this salad, you certainly aren’t limited to seasonal produce that you can effectively shave with a vegetable peeler- I just thought adding “vegetable peeler” to the title of the recipe would get your attention and highlight how well a vegetable peeler works to get fast and easy veggie slices whenever you need them. So use any seasonal produce you like, and if you can’t slice it, then dice it, chop it, cut it, smash it or otherwise process it for your salad eating pleasure. Oh, and another thing, who says you have to serve your seasonal produce raw- blanched, grilled, roasted, or otherwise cooked produce brings an entirely new dimension to the plate, so don’t forget to explore these methods when making seasonal salads as well.
Thoughtful Vinaigrette Embellishments. If you want to raise you vinaigrette game beyond oil and vinegar, think about what would go well with the tastes in your salad- minced garlic, minced seasonal herbs or shallots work well most of the time, but perhaps a bit of curry powder would be nice if your salad contains sweet potatoes, cauliflower or carrots; a puree of sundried tomatoes if using roasted eggplant; and maple syrup with apples. While you’re at it, you should also think about what acids would compliment the salad- apple cider vinegar in the fall, rice vinegar for an Asian salad, grapefruit with avocados and pickle juice just for fun. As a footnote, a nice extra virgin olive oil, is to me, a bit agressive for a general purpose vinaigrette. Nevertheless, it can be a nice embellishment nonetheless, so add a bit in place of some of the milder oil if you like. Note- If you use a squirt bottle for your vinaigrette- which I would highly recommend because they are easy and so much fun to use- make sure any embellishments are prepped small enough to fit though the opening of the bottle; otherwise, use a mason or similar jar.
Thoughtful Salad Embellishments. You’re not done thinking yet! Now it’s time to figure out what fun and tasty nuggets you can toss in your salad for a change of pace. Again, ask yourself what will go well with the seasonal produce in the salad- you can never go wrong with seasonal herbs, toasted nuts or seeds, goat cheese with beets, feta with tomatoes, parmesan with a lot of things. A bit of crab, shrimp or seafood is nice in a summer salad and white or other cooked dried beans, dried fruit and/or grains are nice in fall and winter salads. Croutons may seem old school, but tear up some leftover artisan bread and fry it up in some nice olive oil or butter and many salads would be the better for it. Of course, a Dad wouldn’t hesitate to add bacon (you girls can use shitaake “bacon”) or and other cured and/or smoked meat (you girls can used smoked tofu, capers or olives) to a salad at any point in the year. Oh, and there are a lot of salads that would do nicely with a soft boiled, fried or poached egg for that matter. So many choices, so little time!
Keywords: starter, salad, spring, seasonal, Plug & Plate, vegan option
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