I am, in a word, a fan of Patricia Wells. I love her cookbooks, packed with ideas that tempt me page by page. I relish her travel books: those Food Lover’s Guides to Paris and to France have given many of us perfect journeys along the timeless streets of cities or the rural byways of France.
Her twelfth book, Salad as a Meal, is out and simply extends her record of superb writing and recipe presentation. Her inspiration for this book was, truthfully, negative. At Brasserie Lipp on the Left Bank in Paris, there is a small sign saying: No Salad as a Meal. It struck Patricia as both humorous and totally at odds with French cuisine.
In love with salads, Patricia has a broad definition of that dish. Her salad does not have to include greens at all, and she prefers salads with protein. So, Salad as Meal is organized with chapters devoted to protein type including:
- Eggs, Cheese and Bean
- Fish and Shellfish
In that last category, Classic, there is this recipe for Cobb Salad, a robust, old-fashioned ride of iceberg lettuce, tomato, bacon, and blue cheese. [Yes, in the picture above we used romaine, not iceberg, but Patricia approves of creativity]. This salad was created in the 1930 by Robert Cobb, one of the owners of the Brown Derby restaurant chain. The main restaurant, nestled on the border of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, was famous for its Wilshire Avenue location. At night, it was the home to the famous stars, from Hollywood, and the infamous, dapper men from the Los Angeles underworld. Everyone, regardless of status in life, loved this salad.
Oh, I know you want to look at the recipe but let’s go back to Wilshire Boulevard for some great history. Wilshire runs 28 miles from downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific in Santa Monica. It was developed starting around 1900 in sections, one at a time, ranging from a few blocks to almost a mile. Each round of developers provided new ideas, architectures, and scenery.
When Wilshire began, there were oil derricks in downtown LA. Some entrepreneurs got a lease for a plot of land [an old Spanish ranch land grant] several miles west of downtown LA. They set up a derrick to drill for oil. They drilled and they struck. Water. They moved the derrick. They drilled. Water. Move, drill, water. Move, drill, water.
Water does not burn well, but it has, and had, value in land that was basically desert. So, running out of money but still having hope, the entrepreneurs laid out a grid of streets, planted a different species of tree on each main thoroughfare, and built some model homes. They advertised the water supply.
And, in the end, there was no oil but a nice little community grew up. The next time you are in LA, you can visit and see how it all turned out. Just ask anyone for the directions to Beverly Hills. Oh, and do stop to shop and eat. Try the Cobb Salad somewhere. It’s really good.
Yield: serves 4
Ingredients for the Salad:
- 2 1/2 ounces smoked bacon, rind removed, cut into matchsticks (¾ cup)
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped (4 cups)
- 2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
- 4 ounces chilled blue cheese (preferably Roquefort), crumbled (1 cup)
- 4 small spring onions or scallions, white part only, trimmed, peeled, and cut into thin rounds
- Yogurt and Lemon Dressing (recipe follows)
- Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for the Yogurt and Lemon Dressing:
- ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Preparation of the Salad:
In a large, dry skillet, brown the bacon over moderate heat until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to several layers of paper towels to absorb the fat. Blot the top of the bacon with several layers of paper towel to absorb any additional fat. Set aside.
In a large, shallow bowl, combine the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cheese and spring onions. Toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat the ingredients. Season generously with pepper, and serve.
Preparation of the Yogurt and Lemon Dressing:
Use a jar with a tight lid. Place all the ingredients in the jar. Cover with the lid and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be used immediately or stored for a week (shake to blend again before serving).
Source: Salad as Meal by Patricia Well (published by William Morrow)
I know, lamb is not an everyday dish. And for many it’s an acquired taste. There is, of course, the British-inspired route of having one bite of mint jelly for every bite of lamb. And then there are better paths.
At our recent course on wood oven cooking at Stone Turtle in Maine, we had leg of lamb done two ways: a traditional Greek style with olive oil and rosemary and then this yogurt-coated treat. The yogurt and overnight resting create a soft, almost silky texture to the lamb. It’s lamb like you’ve never had. No mint jelly is needed. Or even wanted.
At Stone Turtle, we cooked this in a wood oven at 500° for about 90 minutes. For the home oven, we suggest 450° for 90-120 minutes. Of course, after about 60 minutes, you’ll want to take the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. You’re looking for 135° for lamb that is not overdone and dry. Be sure to rest the meat, tented in foil, for 20 minutes. The temperature will still rise a bit, and you’ll have a range of doneness to please every palette. If someone should ask for well done and dry, just open another bottle of wine.
Yogurt Leg of Lamb
Yield: 10 servings
- 5-6 pound semi-boneless leg of lamb
- 1 cup Yogurt (Greek style, whole milk if possible)
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Rub down lamb leg and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
Unwrap and gently wipe off any excess yogurt. Rub leg with a light coating of olive oil. Place on a rack in a heavy roasting pan. Remove most traces of yogurt from the surface of the meat.
Roasting time is about 90-120 minutes hours. Check internal temperature, looking for 135° F. Do not overcook. Lamb is best when slightly pink.
Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest 20 minutes before cutting.
Source: Meat: Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School