“Valabar’s has several salads. Today’s was a combination of the round and the tall, broad-leaf kinds of lettuce, along with flatnuts, blanched tomato wedges, soul of palm, pimentos, scallions, and artichoke heart marinated in sweet vinegar, which functioned as a dressing. A grated nithlan cheese—sharp and musky—was shredded over it, and the whole thing was topped with candied rose petals.
Mihi dished it up with his usual matter-of-fact fluid elegance, and my mouth was watering.”
-Dzur, by Steven Brust
This is a most excellent dish.
The artichoke hearts are particularly nice, as their leaves soak up more of the balsamic, making them a flavor powerhouse. The richness of the hearts of palm contrasts pleasingly with the sharpness of the vinegar. The almonds, in conjunction with the scallions, invoke some taste-memory that I can’t quite place. It’s surprising how well the flavors work together, giving the impression of one dish with several different accents.
All in all, it is a thoroughly quirky salad, but so easy to make, and so well received that it may well become a staple dish in this house!
Recipe for Valabar’s Salad
Makes 2 large salads
- 2-3 medium-sized tomatoes
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup heart of palm, chopped into 1″ slices
- 1/4 cup pimento or roasted red pepper, diced
- 4 artichoke hearts, quartered
- 1 head large leaf lettuce
- 1 scallion, sliced thin
- grated cheese, such as parmesan or gruyere
- 2 Tbs. Marcona almonds
- 1 Tbs. candied rose petals
Blanch the tomatoes: Put a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Cut the stems out of the tomatoes, and cut a small X on the bottom of each fruit. Place in the boiling water, and scoop back out when the skin begins to peel off. Once cool, remove the skins and slice into quarters.
Combine the vinegars in a small bowl. Add the tomatoes, hearts of palm and artichoke, and pimento. Toss and let infuse for at least an hour.
To serve, arrange the lettuce in two serving bowls. Spoon the vinegar ingredients into the bowls, and sprinkle scallions, cheese, and almonds over them. Top with a few small rose petals, and enjoy!