Tossing tasty salads all year long

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Monk offers recipes for all seasons that are simple yet full of flavor

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April 28, 2004|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette is a prolific author of cookbooks. As a resident monk of a monastery in New York state, he must have ample time to meditate on eating well. His latest, Twelve Months of Monastery Salads: 200 Divine Recipes for All Seasons (the Harvard Common Press, 2004, $22.95), is a primer for those who could dine on salads practically every night of the year, as I could, were it not for the contrarians in my household.

Beyond instructions for blending dressing ingredients or roasting peppers, Brother Victor-Antoine's cookbook requires little skill, other than being able to "toss gently."

The 256-page book's recipes, arranged to correspond with the weather, seasonal produce and feast days, range from hearty winter fare, such as German Potato Salad, to a summer salad with a radish-tinged bite that honors St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary.

A profusion of other salads are named for saints, including St. Hildegarde's Salad, a September offering featuring Belgian endive, Swiss cheese and a dressing that calls for a teaspoon of dry white vermouth. Brother Victor-Antoine supplies a small biography of each salad's saint as well. Hildegarde, he says, was "remarkable for her visions as well as for her wisdom," and "was one of the most famous women of the Middle Ages."

Roasted Red Pepper, Chicory and Mozzarella Salad, a May offering, could have sufficed for an entire meal, but was a fine companion to the year's first cookout. It is a magnificently simple recipe, yet full of complementary flavors, colors and textures. A search for chicory was unsuccessful; but watercress was a suitable substitute for the bitter green.

Roasted Red Pepper, Chicory and Mozzarella Salad

Serves 6 to 8

SALAD:

4 large red bell peppers

1 medium-size Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

1/2 pound baby chicory (frisee), stems trimmed off

1 small head radicchio, separated into leaves and cut into strips lengthwise

VINAIGRETTE:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

TOPPING:

1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees or preheat the broiler. To make the salad, roast or broil the peppers until blackened all over, about 20 minutes, turning them from time to time. When they are done, put them in a paper bag, close it, and allow the peppers to cool.

Carefully remove the peppers from the bag, peel off their skins, then wash under cold running water to remove any blackened bits. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut open the peppers and remove the seeds and stem. Slice lengthwise into thin strips. Put the peppers in a deep salad bowl, add the onion, chicory and radicchio, and toss gently.

Just before serving, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a measuring cup or a small bowl until it thickens, pour over the salad, and toss again until everything is well-coated. Serve the salad on individual plates topped with slices of mozzarella.

Per serving: 186 calories; 9 grams protein; 13 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 10 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber; 15 milligrams cholesterol; 175 milligrams sodium

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