She’s wicked-cool, a California farm-to-table maven, and also one of my best foodie friends: Eating with Abs Contributing Columnist Ellen Roggeman. Last week, she posed a DIY summer side-dish challenge. Using regional produce from our respective residences—-Ellen is in San Francisco, and I’m in Berlin—-we agreed to create scrumptious, five-ingredient salads bursting with surprises. Creativity excels when constraints are imposed upon its production, and culinary art is no exception. She and I each spent Saturday afternoon at our favorite farmers’ markets in search of the following locally-produced and -crafted sum’n sum’ns:
- Leafy Green
- Chef’s-Choice Surprise Ingredient
Ellen’s Grilled Lettuce: In our 5-ingredient salad challenge Abs and I decided to compare what is seasonally delicious in our two distant homes. We’ve always loved to cook together–that’s how we met, in fact–so why let a huge ocean get in the way? Our mission was to create something tantalizing from a green, a fruit, an herb, a cheese, and a secret ingredient. Berlin or San Francisco, NJ (my home state) or Texas (hers)–no matter where you live or where you come from seasonal can always be yummy.
Inspiration for my creation came from a wacky idea introduced to me by one of my farmer’s market customers years ago: grilled lettuce! And what better day than at a friend’s festive barbaque?! Grilling isn’t for all lettuces. I can only imagine the smoldering mess that would become of an iceberg head or floppy red leaf. But grilling is perfectly suited for 1) Little Gem lettuce, the adorable result of a bubbly Butter lettuce falling in love with a stately Romaine.
I sliced the small heads in halves on my friend’s Texas shaped cutting board, which of course made me think of you, Abs. Sprinkled them with 2) olive oil and tossed them on the grill and let both sides get a bit charred and wilty as I sipped on some Calistoga white wine. Chopped up some 3) sweet Bing cherries, made a thyme dressing with 4) Straus sour cream (Abigail, this is their newest product and I’ll have to bring you some when I visit you because it is ridiculously delicious), and crushed a few Massa Farms 5) raw almonds for crunch factor. It was a real masterpiece.
Abs’ Super-Swell Summer Salad: I prepared a hot salad, too! I sauteed 1) Arugula (green) with 2) yellow summer-squash (surprise ingredient) and topped it off with fresh 3) blueberries (fruit), 4) basil from my window box (herb), and 5) Roquefort (cheese). An elite, sheep’s milk blue-cheese that comes from a highly-specific, discrete region in the South of France called Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, French law actually regulates that only cheese from this region can be called Roquefort, sustaining a centuries’-old legacy of this artisanal dairy product.
Guten appetit, y’all!!