Over at one of my favourite haunts, Serious Eats, there’s been a month-long column about the experience of going vegan for a month. In his retrospective, Kenji wrote something that really resonated with me: “Meat is safe, it’s pretty easy, even when it’s not at it’s best, it’s still edible… Vegetables on the other hand, take some planning. A bad salad is just sad”. I couldn’t agree more. The limp messes that pass for airplane salads? *shudder*. I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love my greens and they should be prepared such that you want to eat them, not that you feel obligated to.
Growing up in Malaysia, we rarely ate salads – most of our greens were stir-fried, steamed, or boiled in soups. I used to think that raw lettuce was a barbaric concept. Who would have chosen that over a plate of oil slicked, garlic scented fried lettuce? Certainly not me, at the time.
Fast forward some years later and I’ve come to truly appreciate the craft that goes into making a salad. Good salads have a range of textures and flavours that play off of each other – sweet to balance tart, crunch to balance softness, salt and pepper to bring it all together. I’m always on the hunt for interesting ways to put salads together to pull myself out of my standard spring mix/balsamic vinaigrette rut, and I found a great one to riff of on in Stephanie Izard’s Girl in the Kitchen.
This is a bright, acidic and crunchy salad, a perfect respite from the hearty, rich dishes that we tend to eat a lot of in the winter. It’s also flexible – I substituted fennel for apples, and cranberries for pomegranate seeds called for in the original recipe – feel free to experiment with different proportions of ingredients. I imagine that other crisp vegetables like shaved radishes and celery would work well here too. Salads are infinitely adaptable, so go forth and play!
adapted liberally from Girl in the Kitchen
Make this vegan by using agave nectar in place of the honey in the dressing.
- 1 ruby red grapefruit
- 2 tbsp good olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Belgian endives
- 1 medium head of fennel
- 1 large avocado
- Handful of dried cranberries
- Flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
Supreme the grapefruit over a bowl to catch the juices. Reserve the juices and segments.
In another small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey and grapefruit juice. Stir in a pinch of salt and fresh black pepper to taste.
To make the salad:
Cut off the fronds from the fennel and save for another use. Cut the bulb into quarters, remove the core and then cut each quarter into very thin slices.
Remove any wilted outer leaves from the endives and cut into very thin slices.
In a large bowl, gently toss the endive, fennel, grapefruit segments and dried cranberries with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out the halves with a large spoon and cut each side in half again, creating quarters. Slice each quarter thinly lengthwise.
Divide the salad evenly among 4 plates. Lay the avocado slices on top, sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and serve.