Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Winter Salads

One of the pleasures of my life is feeding the bands that come to play at the Ripton Community Coffee House every month. After the sound check, I send dinner over to the community house for the coffeehouse crew, and the band comes to my house to have dinner and relax before their set begins.

At home, I point with pride to the photograph on the wall of Robert Frost enjoying tea with Agnes and Eunice Billings. The Billings sisters used to own this old farmhouse where Frost took his meals while living across the road and teaching at the Bread Loaf Campus. The photograph means that the band is being served in the Robert Frost Memorial Dining Room.

What to serve the band is always a dilemma. It has to be made in quantity to feed both crew and band. It has to be transportable and tasty even if sound check runs long or the band gets lost. There is always at least one vegetarian in the group. There is always at least one singer who would prefer not to eat dairy before a performance. Vegans? Of course. And others are wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free. It is a problem, okay, but that’s expected with modern diets, isn’t it?

This past Saturday, Laura Cortese played with a back-up band. All in all, the band included three fiddle players, a cellist, a sound man, and a merch person. And all diet preferences and limitations were represented. What to make?

I quickly decided on a trio of salads—carrot salad, because of the abundance of carrots in the root cellar; wild rice salad with roasted vegetables; and lentil salad made with a jar of my Rosemary-Onion Confit.

The carrot salad is one I’ve been playing with lately, and I don’t have the recipe firmed up. It is simply grated carrots, chopped scallions, minced cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, a touch of sugar, and salt and pepper. It is done when the carrots, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, and olive oil are in perfect balance and you can taste each one. Make it yourself.

Winter Carrot Salad

The wild rice salad? Easy as can be. Cook up some wild rice. Roast some root vegetables and/or winter squash and an onion. Make a dressing with olive oil, cranberry sauce, and sherry vinegar. Toss with roasted almonds and dried cranberries. How seasonal can you be?

Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables

The lentil salad is made with French green lentils—lentilles du Puy—because they hold their shape so well. Add something crunchy (usually I add carrots, but that seemed redundant, and besides I had celery left over from Thanksgiving). Then dress with a jar of Rosemary-Onion Confit and a touch of apple cider vinegar.

Lentil Salad with Rosemary-Onion Confit

Do you really need recipes for dishes this simple?

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