At his seafood-focused Italian restaurant, Waypoint, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chef Michael Scelfo makes a hearty, blue crab and wild fennel salad with farro, apples, and nettles. Scelfo sources the wild nettles and fennel from foragers on the West Coast. He grills the nettles over live fire for a smoky flavor before folding them into the salad that also includes cooked Maryland blue swimmer crab meat, thin shavings of the fennel, local Cortland apples that are diced and pickled in rice wine vinegar, and farro that’s been cooked, dehydrated, lightly fried and seasoned with lime zest, Szechuan peppercorn, fried garlic, and chives. Fennel fronds, pickled tarragon, candied hazelnut, and a touch of chives serve as garnish.
Combining his Italian roots with lowcountry ingredients, Chef Michael Toscano at Le Farfalle in Charleston, South Carolina prepares a Insalata Misticanza salad which features charred persimmons over lightly Champagne vinaigrette–dressed mixed greens, ricotta salata shavings, and toasted, chopped hazelnuts. “Persimmons are sweet with a flavor similar to a blend of honey and dates. When grilled, their flavor deepens even more,” Toscano says. The peppery notes of the greens and saltiness of the ricotta help balance out the sweetness of the fruit.
Though dashi is typically used as the base for soups and sauces, Chef Shaun McCrain at Copine in Seattle combines Japanese ingredients with French technique to transform the seaweed-based broth into gelatinous cubes as a garnish for his popular Salad of Dungeness Crab layered with quick-pickled daikon radishes and beech mushrooms. For the gelée, which takes the longest to make out of all the salad elements, McCrain brews a “tea” by simmering kombu, chile peppers, and shitake mushrooms in water, adding shaved bonito fish flakes for smokiness, just before straining the stock and adjusting for salinity and acid with a touch of tamari and fresh lime juice. He then adds gelatin to the stock and lays it out into trays to set up in the fridge for a couple hours before cutting the gelée into cubes. Ingredients from the dashi—dried kelp, chile powder, and bonito flakes—are also ground to form a spice blend for the local crab. The plate is finished with a drizzling of lime gastrique and a house-made, crispy forbidden rice cracker that’s quick-fried to resemble a black-colored chicharron.
At Dove’s Luncheonette in Chicago, Chef de Cuisine Tom Carlin swaps croutons for crisped-up chickpeas to add a little crunch and spice to an arugula salad with avocado, broccoli, and a miso-crema dressing. The chickpeas are briefly deep fried, tossed in blend of paprika, garlic, brown sugar, and cumin,and then dried out in the oven at a low temperature overnight. “These peas are super popular right now because they are delicious yet versatile, and, when spiced, seem a little bit exotic,” Carlin says. “Deep down, all we want is a crisp salad with restaurant-style croutons and these are a good stand-in.”
Chef David “Baz” Bazirgan at Bambara in Cambridge, Mass., reaches for boquerones, or marinated, white anchovies, for a more pungent, herbaceous kick to a Caesar dressing using local little gem lettuce, sourdough croutons, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a tahini-spiked dressing reflective of Bazirgan’s Armenian background. Bazirgan sources the boquerones pre-marinated from a local seafood wholesaler. A Mediterranean staple, boquerones are cured in salt first before being marinated in a mixture of vinegar, garli,c and herbs like oregano and parsley.
At Proxi in Chicago, Chef Andrew Zimmerman tops a grilled sweet potato salad with a cashew dukkah, a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices with Egyptian origins, for extra spice and crunch. To make his version, Zimmerman toasts the nuts, grinds them fine and combines them with other toasted and ground seeds like sesame, coriander, and cumin. He then spreads a sesame- and ginger-spiked yogurt dressing on the plate before layering on the dukkah, charred sweet potato slices, and a garnish of rough chopped Thai red chiles, microgreens, and cilantro. “Dukkah is a really versatile condiment that can be used on top of salads, dips or mixed with olive oil,” Zimmerman says. “I store it in an airtight container in the cooler and it can last for about a week.”
Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli of Urban Kitchen Group in Southern California launched a new salad across all his restaurant locations (CUCINA urbana in San Diego and CUCINA enoteca in Del Mar, Irvine and Newport Beach, among others), that features crispy buckwheat as the primary garnish for a burrata salad with fresh, heirloom tomato, hearts of palm, green olives, watercress, and a drizzle of dressing, which he makes by blending Calabrian chiles, onion, and sweet, roasted garlic puree with white balsamic vinegar and a top shelf olive oil. To prepare the buckwheat, Magnanelli boils the grain in a pot of salted water, then strains and dries it out in the oven at a low temperature. He then deep-fries the buckwheat kernels in a pot of oil at 350 F until they start to pop. “You can season them however you want, like curry or cumin, right when it comes out of the pot,” Magnanelli says. In this case, he keeps them simple with a little salt and pepper so the nuttiness of the grain stands out.