Good salads are all about balance. Here, bitter-bright endive and radicchio play against the umami of baked olives and browned mushrooms. The richness of mozzarella and egg yolk serve as foil to the mellow garlic-bite of ramps, and the acidity of lemon juice. A thin sheen of pesto brings the whole plate together. This salad is best served on a rainy spring day: It’s bright, flavorful, and texturally varied; satisfying, but not filling.
In other, salad-unrelated news, the Frenchman and I are off to Charleston for the weekend. We have never been, and I’m quite looking forward to sampling the local cuisine. As is my custom, I’ve planned the weekend largely around market visits, and late-but-I-don’t-care dinner reservations. (Frenchman, if you are reading this, don’t worry: we’re spending a whole half day at the beach!) I hope to return with wondrous photographs, and a whole slew of new recipe ideas.
A note about making ahead: You can make all elements of this salad ahead of time. I like the mushrooms and ramps and egg yolks to be a bit warm (balance!), but it’s not necessary, and nothing a little reheating can’t solve.
A note on the olive bread: I like the flavor olive bread croutons lend, but if you can’t find olive bread, it’s no big deal. You can make croutons with whatever bread you have around (wheat might also be nice). Of course you can use store-bought croutons if you like, but watch out: they tend to be super salty. I like the homemade variety for their soft crunch, and because you can really taste whatever olive oil you used to make them. Plus, they are impossibly easy, and you can always make a big batch, throw them in a plastic baggie, and repurpose them all week.
A note on the ramps: If ramps don’t grow where you live, you can sub 1 clove of garlic + 1 small white onion. You can also use any spring onion, including scallions.
A note on the pesto: I used a spinach-arugula pesto I happened to have in the fridge, but store-bought basil pesto saves time here.
Makes 4, entrée-sized salads
- 1 small boule olive bread
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- kosher salt, black pepper
- 1 punnet (or 2 cups) button or crimini mushrooms
- 1 bunch ramps
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 4 cups arugula
- 4 heads Belgian endive
- 2 heads radicchio
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
Make the croutons:
1. Heat the oven to 375F.
2. Cut the boule into 1-inch thick slices, and then cut each slice into 1×1-inch cubes. Toss the cubes with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, as well as a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper. Move the bread to a foil-lined baking sheet, and the baking sheet into the oven. Toast for 10 minutes, and then toss the cubes with tongs. Bake for another 5-7 minutes, or until the croutons are golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the mushrooms and ramps:
1. Wash any dirt off of the mushrooms, and then dry them well. Wash the ramps, too, making sure the whites are free of dirt. Snip off any whiskery bits. Thinly slice both the mushrooms and the ramps.
2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms, making sure not to crowd them. Don’t stir them too often either, as this will prevent them from browning. When the mushrooms are well-browned and smell lovely (5-7 minutes), remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add the sliced ramps to the pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until they’re wilty. Remove them to a separate bowl.
Hard boil the eggs:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and then lower the heat until the water is just simmering. Add the eggs, and cook for 9-10 minutes. Immediately after cooking, move the eggs to an ice bath, to arrest cooking. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them.
Make the dressing:
1. Whisk together the pesto with the lemon juice. Done-zo!
Mozzarella and Lettuces:
1. Dice the mozzarella into small cubes, and move to a small bowl (or, just to the side of the cutting board. No judgement here).
2. Move the arugula to a large mixing bowl. Slice the endive, crosswise, and add that, too. Shred the radicchio, and use your hands to incorporate all three lettuces.
Putting everything together:
Gently coat the lettuces in the presto dressing–it’s really best to use your hands for this. Add the mozzarella, the croutons, the mushrooms and the ramps. Distribute the salad between four plates. Slice up the eggs, and artfully arrange 1 over each salad. Voila!