Although Southern California menus are filled with salad options year-round, chefs often find renewed inspiration as warm weather arrives. Readers of our Culinary SOS column, which brings requested restaurant recipes into The Times' test kitchen for adaptation to home kitchens, have been asking for all sorts of salads lately. Three recent requests were for burrata salad from Murano Restaurant, Bar & Lounge in West Hollywood, shaking beef salad from Gingergrass in Silver Lake and roasted red and gold beet salad from Canele in Atwater Village.
Neha Sheth, a reader and self-described cheese fanatic from Los Angeles, requested a recipe for the seasonal burrata salad from Murano. The restaurant's version is a twist on the classic pairing of prosciutto and melon and makes for a bold blend of colors and flavors.
"I wanted to bring the classic flavor combination together with a modern take," says chef Kristi Ritchey. "And pink honeydew is so great right now."
The salad begins with thinly sliced pink honeydew -- or any sweet melon -- arranged in a pattern at the base of a plate. Top the melon with peppery arugula tossed in a light Champagne vinaigrette, then mound the salad with thinly sliced prosciutto. A wedge of fresh burrata cheese is nestled into the prosciutto and dressed with a little aged balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt. A light sprinkling of candied pecans dots the almost-complete plate.
For extra color and flavor, finish the salad with a drizzle each of bright chive oil and rich, red vincotto. The chive oil brings a fresh -- and colorful -- herbal note to the presentation. And vincotto "is a nice vinegar alternative," notes Ritchey. "It brings acid to the plate but does not take away from the sweetness of the dish."
The shaking beef dish from Gingergrass in Silver Lake is a salad version of the Vietnamese entree. The dish, requested by reader Nicole Veirup in Sherman Oaks, works perfectly as a one-dish meal combining the hot, sauteed beef over a cool watercress salad.
Chef de cuisine Henry Nghe marinates strips of filet mignon in a traditional combination of garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Shortly before serving, he whisks together a light, ginger-garlic dressing that he tosses with a salad of crisp watercress and thinly sliced red onion. The beef is quickly sauteed in a wok or skillet until caramelized and aromatic, then arranged on the chilled salad and topped with chopped green onions.
For chef Corina Weibel of Canele, the flavors of Morocco serve as inspiration for her colorful beet salad, a vivid combination of red and gold beets tossed with baby carrots, tender bundles of mache (the salad green) and paper-thin slices of lemon. "The salad has a wonderful lemon flavor without being too tart," write readers Andrea Horwatt and Wendy Mitchell.
Roast the beets and blanch the carrots ahead of time and cool before assembling the salad. Use Meyer lemon slices when available; otherwise, quickly blanch thin slices of regular lemons to remove tartness. The dish is tied together with an aromatic cumin vinaigrette -- crushed cumin seeds with garlic, lemon juice and a hint of cayenne powder.
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Canele's beet salad
Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes (including roasting time)
Note: Adapted from chef Corina Weibel of Canele. The recipe for the vinaigrette will make more than is needed for the salad. The vinaigrette will keep for 3 days, refrigerated.
3 small gold beets, trimmed
3 small red beets, trimmed
2 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Very small pinch cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a squeeze, divided
8 very thin lemon slices
6 baby carrots
1 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup mache
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets in a shallow baking pan, with one-fourth cup water. Sprinkle one-fourth teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil over the beets. Cover the pan with foil and roast in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, until a knife easily pierces the beets. Cool to room temperature, peel and quarter, keeping the gold and red beets separate.
2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Use a mortar and pestle to grind the cumin seeds to a powder. Add the garlic and pound to a paste. Add a pinch of salt, the cayenne and the juice of one lemon. When all the ingredients are incorporated and the salt is dissolved, drizzle in one-fourth cup of olive oil while stirring. Adjust to taste. Makes about one-fourth cup vinaigrette.
3. In a small pot of boiling salted water, blanch the lemon slices for 20 seconds, just to remove the tartness. Lift out with a slotted spoon and cool in ice water. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.
4. In the same pot of boiling water, add the carrots and blanch 2 to 3 minutes, to bring out the vibrant color and soften just slightly. Remove and set aside to cool (do not shock in an ice bath). Add them to the bowl with the lemons.
5. Toss the gold beets into the bowl with the lemon and carrots, keeping the red beets separate. To the bowl, add the lemon, parsley, mache, shallot and the remaining squeeze of lemon juice, tossing to combine. Add 2 teaspoons vinaigrette, or enough to lightly coat, and toss gently. Season to taste and divide among two plates. Separately, toss the red beets with enough vinaigrette to coat, then divide the beets among the two plated salads. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 210 calories; 4 grams protein; 19 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 15 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 419 mg. sodium.
Murano's burrata salad
Total time: 50 minutes
Note: Fresh burrata is available at specialty food markets and cheese stores. Vincotto (dark, sweet grape must) can be found at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica and Surfas in Culver City. To make chive oil, blend 3 tablespoons chopped chives with one-half cup olive oil in a blender; strain. The oil will keep for 1 week, refrigerated.
1 cup sugar
1 cup pecans
1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with 1 cup water and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans, reduce the heat to a low simmer and poach until tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Strain the pecans, discarding the poaching liquid, and spread the nuts in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking pan. Toast until they are crisp, about 30 minutes. Store at room temperature in an airtight container until needed. Makes slightly more than needed for the recipe.
Salad with Champagne vinaigrette
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 small sweet melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew (about 5 pounds)
10 cups baby arugula
4 1/2 teaspoons Champagne vinaigrette, or to taste
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma
1 pound fresh burrata cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
Fleur de sel
1/2 cup roughly chopped candied pecans
3 teaspoons vincotto
3 teaspoons chive oil
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar and one-fourth cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with one-half teaspoon salt, one-fourth teaspoon pepper and the sugar. Adjust seasoning. Set aside. Makes one-half cup vinaigrette.
2. Peel and halve the melon lengthwise. Seed the melon, and cut each half lengthwise into three wedges. Cut each wedge lengthwise into one-fourth-inch slices. Divide the melon slices among six plates (arrange the slices so that they overlap slightly).
3. Dress the arugula with 4 1/2 teaspoons vinaigrette, or to taste (it should be lightly dressed). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide the salad among the six plates, centering each mound of salad over the melon slices.
4. Divide the prosciutto into six portions, draping each portion over the salads. Divide the burrata into six portions and mound over each salad. Drizzle a scant one-fourth teaspoon balsamic vinegar and one-half teaspoon olive oil over each portion of burrata. Top each with a pinch of sea salt.
5. Scatter the candied pecans evenly over the six portions, and drizzle one-half teaspoon each of the vincotto and chive oil around the salads. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 497 calories; 26 grams protein; 19 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 36 grams fat; 14 grams saturated fat; 93 mg. cholesterol; 960 mg. sodium.
Gingergrass' shaking beef salad
Total time: 35 minutes, plus marinating time
Note: From Gingergrass in Silver Lake. This makes slightly more dressing than is needed for the recipe; it will keep refrigerated for 1 week.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, ginger powder, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, grapeseed oil and black pepper. Set aside. Makes slightly more than one-half cup.
Salad and assembly
8 ounces filet mignon, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons diced yellow onions
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 bunch watercress, washed and dried
1/8 cup thinly sliced red onion
Scant 1 tablespoon dressing
3 green onions, chopped
1. In a nonreactive container, toss the beef with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the minced garlic, the fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
2. Heat a large saute pan or wok over high heat and add the oil. Add the beef and sear until browned on all sides, then remove and drain on paper towels.
3. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic and diced onions and saute for 30 seconds, until aromatic.
4. Return the beef to the pan and add the oyster sauce, shaking the pan to distribute the flavors, then remove from the heat.
5. In a medium bowl, toss the watercress with the red onions and a scant tablespoon of the dressing (enough to just coat the greens). Arrange the salad on a plate and top with the cooked beef. Garnish with the chopped green onions; serve immediately.
Each serving: 379 calories; 26 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 27 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 71 mg. cholesterol; 969 mg. sodium.