So we’re reading Charlotte’s Web and tonight I got to read this aloud while trying to maintain composure, thank you very much E.B. White:
… The sheds and buildings are empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of all the hundreds of people who had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died.
What the hell? That’s a chapter ending? Like, “Night, night babies, give Mommy a smooch! That’s right, the story’s hero died alone in a g.d. abandoned fairground! Well, good night!”
Good gravy. I was trying to gently introduce my kids to the circle of life, not send them into an existentialist depression.
Then, after some quality time with a few tissues and a review of my belief system, I hustled downstairs to get to work. This Saturday is the launch of the EatLocalVT 100-mile challenge, and part of my blogging means bringing a signature dish to the potluck kick-off event. This is a dinner salad I created just for the challenge, involving nearly 100% local ingredients and based on a few Nicoise-inspired salads I’ve had over the years. There are a few steps, but they’re all simple, and the results are pretty delicious.
Note: The brining process does take 3 1/2 hours, so do get an early start. If you must, you can skip it. But try not to because it’s good.
Green Mountain Salad Nicoise with Maple-Brined Chicken (or maple-marinated tofu)
- 1/4 c. kosher salt
- 1/4 c. maple syrup
- 1/2 t. lightly crushed fennel seeds or fresh fennel fronds
- 1 tray ice cubes
- 1 c. cold strong coffee
- 2 c. cold water
- 4 chicken legs or breast halves, bone in and skin on
Place all the brine ingredients in a bowl or pot large enough to accommodate them plus the chicken, and stir around well with your hand until well-mixed and the salt dissolves. Add the chicken, then refrigerate for 3 hours.
(If you prefer tofu, take one pound of extra firm tofu, and press it for about an hour. Marinate it in about 1 cup of vegetable broth, with 2 T. maple syrup, 2 T. coffee, and crushed fennel seeds or fronds, then bake it in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes, turning midway through.)
For the salad:
- 10 cups salad greens (I used napa cabbage for the version depicted above)
- 4 medium beets, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ dice
- 4 medium potatoes, cut into 1 1/2″ dice (you can peel if you want, but I don’t)
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped into 1″ dice, seeded if you prefer
- 1/2 c. olive or safflower oil
- 4 c. green beans, ends trimmed
- 4 hardboiled eggs, cooled and peeled and cut into half lengthwise
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Rinse and dry the salad greens and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Toss the potatoes with a generous dollop of the oil and place on an oiled baking sheet.
- Repeat with the beets, keeping each vegetable in its own area.
- Sprinkle with salt and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove tray from oven, turn over with a spatula, and slide down to make room for green beans.
- Toss the green beans with a bit of oil and then roast them for 15 minutes.
- Remove vegetables from oven and let cool.
Whisk together until completely blended:
- 1/2 c. olive or safflower oil
- 2 T. apple cider vinegar
- 1 T. maple syrup
- 1 T. Dijon mustard (optional)
- 1/4 t. kosher salt
Finish the chicken:
- Remove from brine and pat dry.
- Place on oiled baking sheet and bake in preheated 400 oven for 30 minutes or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the flesh is poked with a knife.
- Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes while you:
Compose the salad
Place the salad greens on each of four plates. Arrange beets, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, and eggs however you like them. Add the chicken (or tofu), drizzle with dressing and enjoy.