Petaluma couple toss around ideas for summer salads
There’s a special music that marks the long, lovely twilight of a summer night: The crack of a baseball bat at a nearby park, the “shhhh-tik-tik” of the sprinklers and the hiss of a cold beer as it’s opened on the deck.
Then there’s the rumbling of stomachs and the age-old refrain: “What’s for dinner?”
If, like Elaine from “Seinfeld,” you are dreaming of The Big Salad but don’t have a deli nearby, don’t fret.
Chefs Chris and Ciara Greenwald of Bay Laurel Kitchen in Petaluma, who serve all kinds of killer salads to rock stars at venues such as the Greek Theatre, have a few tricks up their chef’s coats. From their trips throughout the world and their combined culinary experience, they give the salads of summer a new, refreshing twist.
“At home, we fight over who makes the salad,” said Ciara, a native of Ireland who met Chris at Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg. “We love the dinner salad. It’s healthy but filling, so you don’t feel deprived.”
At Bay Laurel Kitchen, which opened in early June, the caterers cook for all kinds of music shows, weddings and winery events, plus provide boxed lunches that include hearty sandwiches, bowls and salads.
One of the most popular salads is a twist on an old standard, the Chinese Chicken Salad. Their Sesame Chicken Salad comes studded with crunchy carrots and daikon radishes, shredded Napa cabbage and fried wontons.
For the chicken, they dry brine whole Mary’s Chicken in salt and white pepper overnight, then roast and pick the meat by hand. All the ingredients are tossed together with a savory Sesame Tamari Dressing.
“Every bite has something in it,” Chris said. “And the white pepper gives it that Asian flavor.”
If you’re short on time, they suggested picking up a rotisserie chicken from your favorite market. Ready-made fried wontons are available at Asian markets and G&G Market in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
When they went on a backpacking trip to Argentina’s Patagonia region a few years ago, the couple discovered an interesting salad served by a little cafe in Buenos Aires.
“They mixed the quinoa and lentils, and added goat cheese,” Chris said. “I thought, ‘This is a genius idea. Why didn’t anybody think of this before?’”?For their own spin, they add cucumber, parsley and radish to the quinoa and lentils, then serve it over hearts of Romaine leaves for added crunch.
“You can also add green onions, and it becomes a vehicle for whatever you have on hand,” Ciara said. “Not only is it delicious, but it will totally fill you up.”
For the lentils, it’s best to use black beluga or green Puy lentils, since both hold their shape after cooking and don’t get mushy. Once you blend the al dente lentils with the quinoa, the texture is surprisingly light and fluffy.
“You can also put it inside a lentil cup and serve it as an appetizer,” Chris said. “We’ve served this to tech company parties in Golden Gate Park, and everybody loves it.”
If you’re thinking about throwing a piece of chicken or salmon on the barbecue, what could be simpler than a classic side salad of tomatoes and lettuce?
Ciara came up with her own twist after planting an extensive home garden that yielded a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.
“I slow roast them in the oven ... with olive oil and thyme,” she said. “They’re sweet but have a more subtle flavor than the sun-dried tomatoes.”
Once you pack them into a jar and top them off with olive oil, the slow-roasted tomatoes can be thrown on top of some tender salad greens, such as baby romaine and butter lettuce.
As a dressing, nothing could be more delicious than a creamy, lemony vinaigrette made with mustard, shallot and garlic. As a garnish, simply shave some Dry Jack cheese on top.
“The vinaigrette can also be drizzled on grilled veggies,” Chris said. “And you can save the olive oil from the tomatoes and use it with pasta.”
The chef named his catering company Bay Laurel after the venerable culinary and medicinal herb, Laurus nobilis, regarded as the most noble of all the herbs. He planted a Turkish Bay tree outside his new kitchen so that he can always have some fresh bay leaves to add flavor to his dishes.
“Throughout time, they made bay laurel wreaths and put them on their heads,” he said. “It also ties into the Bay Area and the bay trees that grow here.”
Sesame Chicken Salad with White Pepper ?and Coriander
Makes 4 servings as main dish
1 3 1/2-pound chicken
1 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 pound Napa cabbage (washed and dried)
2 carrots, peeled
1 medium daikon, peeled
1 bunch scallions