Alan Tangren: Brighten up springtime salads
Special to The Union
Editors note: Chef Alan Tangren will write a monthly column “Ask the Forager” in place of Chef Roberta DesBouillons of “Ask Roberta,” as she is busy working on her new venture, Wheyward Girl Creamery. Tangren spent 22 years as a chef in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, eight of those years spent as the Chez Panisse forager, where he initiated and sustained relationships with the farmers, ranchers, and other suppliers whose products helped shape the cooking at the restaurant.
He retired to his family’s land in Chicago Park in 2004. In 2014 Tangren joined Roberta DesBouillons and the cooking team at Tess’ Kitchen Store in Grass Valley. He gives cooking classes and directs the Saturday evening Chef’s Table, a six-course dinner with wine pairings, prepared by Alan and sous chef Dawn Empson. Tangren will write an “Ask the Forager” column the third Wednesday of every month in The Union.
Q: I’m wondering what you would suggest for a colorful salad to make this spring. I try to eat locally, and I don’t want to go for the tomatoes and bell peppers in rainbow colors in the stores that I’m sure are coming from Mexico right now. Any ideas for adding local color?
A: Spring is probably the hardest season to find colorful produce in our area.
There are lots of greens like spinach, lettuce and arugula, and the first green asparagus and peas, but an all-green palette can be monotonous.
Happily, we haven’t reached the end of citrus season yet, and there are many growers of citrus in favored parts of the lower foothills who supply local stores.
There are also colorful beets from nearby whose earthy flavors are perfectly balanced by the bright flavor of oranges. Try this salad soon while there is still a good selection of sweet blood oranges.
To complete the salad, the nutty flavor of baby arugula goes particularly well, especially when boosted by a hazelnut vinaigrette.
BLOOD ORANGE AND BEET SALAD WITH HAZELNUT VINAIGRETTE
6 medium golden or red beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 or 4 cloves unpeeled garlic
6 blood oranges
1/3 cup lightly roasted hazelnuts, chopped
Several handfuls baby arugula
1 small shallot
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup hazelnut or olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim leafy tops from the beets if present and save for cooking greens. Place beets in a baking dish and add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme sprigs, garlic and 2 tablespoons water.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with foil and bake until beets can be easily pierced with a sharp knife, 30 minutes to an hour depending on size. Uncover and cool.
Cut off the tops and roots and slip off the skins. Beets may be refrigerated for a day or two before finishing the salad.
Grate the zest from one of the oranges and set aside. Remove peel and outside membrane from the oranges and slice into 1/4-inch pinwheels. Wash and dry arugula. Cut beets into 1/8-inch slices.
Peel and mince or thinly slice the shallot. Place in a small bowl with the grated orange zest, balsamic and white wine vinegar. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with a tablespoon or two of the vinaigrette and arrange onto six plates.
Arrange orange slices on arugula. Toss beet slices in the remaining vinaigrette and arrange over the oranges. Drizzle salads with any vinaigrette left in the beet bowl. Sprinkle salads with chopped hazelnuts and fresh black pepper.
— Use a couple of tablespoons of minced red onion instead of shallot.
— Use blanched or oven-roasted asparagus spears instead of or in addition to the beets.
— Omit the oranges and just use arugula and beets or asparagus.
— Use 4 medium navel oranges instead of blood oranges.
Chef Alan Tangren spent 22 years as a chef in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, eight of those years spent as the Chez Panisse forager. He teaches cooking classes and directs monthly Chef’s Tables at Tess’ Kitchen Store, 115 Mill St. in Grass Valley. Learn more at http://www.tesskitchenstore.com
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