Essential Pepin: Composed Salad

If you don’t know who Jacques Pépin is, here’s a little primer:

Chef Pépin has been cooking since he dropped out of school at age 13 to apprentice at a restaurant. In the 63 years since, he’s been chef, author and TV host. One of the original “celebrity chefs”, he was hosting cooking shows and writing cookbooks long before the Food Network. His 1976 book, La Technique (left), is still used in culinary schools. The success of La Technique prompted him to launch a televised version of the book, resulting in an acclaimed 1997 PBS series, The Complete Pépin. Pépin co-starred in award-winning 1999 PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home with Julia Child. Together they won a Daytime Emmy in 2001.

Jacques Pépin has earned a reputation as a champion of simplicity. His recipes are classics. They find the shortest, surest route to flavour, avoiding complicated techniques.

Now: Pépin serves as Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute, part of the International Culinary Center, in New York City. He is also an active contributor to the Gastronomy department at Boston University. Pépin also writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine magazine.

This is Jacques Pépin’s website.

In his new book, Essential Pépin, Jacques Pépin shares a lifetime of food and techniques. For the first time ever, the legendary chef collects and updates the best recipes from his six-decade career.

Publisher Thomas Allen & Sons is holding a contest for home chefs and bloggers. As a contest participant I was able to choose from three recipes:

  • Composed Salad of Greens, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Pecans
  • Chicken in Tarragon Sauce
  • Chocolate Mousse

See? Simple classics. I made the salad. Of course I made the salad. Salads are what I do and I don’t make meat at home (though I must might also make the mousse before the contest closes on Sunday).

Of the composed salad, Pépin says,

A composed salad consists of greens and any of an almost endless variety of other ingredients, from cooked vegetables to fruits, nuts, poultry, lamb, beef, fish, or shellfish, arranged on a plate or platter, rather than tossed. In this one, I add cheese, apple, and caramelized pecans to tender greens. The combination makes an ideal summer supper or lunch main course or elegant dinner first course

Sounds pretty much like what I do almost daily, except that I usually toss mine rather than “compose”. Another thing I do is modify recipes. Here’s what I changed:

  • I had to replace the pecans. I’d thought I had some so I didn’t buy more. I did, however, have almonds, cashews, walnuts (from my California Walnut contest – but they’ve been assigned to another dish), pistachios, and hazelnuts. I chose almonds.
  • I don’t think that the apple I used was a Golden Delicious or a russet, as called for in the recipe. I don’t know what kind it was, but it was grown at Everdale Farm (about an hour from here) and I picked it up from the CSA.
  • Since I’m on a walnut kick with the California Walnut contest, I used La Tournagelle‘s roasted walnut oil (recipe dictates “1 1/2 tablespoons oil, preferably a mixture of walnut, hazelnut, and/or canola”)
  • Instead of sherry vinegar I used coconut vinegar from Upaya Naturals.
  • For the salad, Pépin directs, “salad greens, preferably mesclun”. I used Earthbound Farms‘ “Half & Half” spinach & spring mix.
  • Also to the salad I added pomegranate seeds and two types of Everdale Farm’s beets, candy stripe and golden, that I’d roasted with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, birch syrup from Forbes Wild Foods, and salt.

My version of the salad wasn’t only simple, but pretty local. I’d have used local greens if they were available but Everdale is down to mustard greens. If this is what it’s like to cook like Pépin, I want an entire collection of Pépin cookbooks. It’s great for a lazy cook such as myself.

I’m already feeling an allergic reaction to something in it (goat cheese? Vinegar? The sugar I used for the caramelized almonds?). I’ve been yeast-free all week. Oh, the things a food writer does for a story and, in this case, a chance to win a KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer. Every food writer needs one.

I was going to make a California walnut dessert this evening but I was too full. Same thing happened last night. I think that tomorrow I should just have dessert for dinner.

Check out Everything Pépin offered by Amazon. (I want my affiliate code to work for me, darn it. Food blogging doesn’t pay).

Seriously, Pépin could change your life.

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