English Autumn Salad

This salad is one I adapted from Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook (1685) and John Evelyn’s Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets (1699), both of which I read when growing my vegetable garden in Massachusetts in 1970. When I started as chef of Chez Panisse, I could not wait to start a garden and put these books to use in making these wonderful compound salads, as modern today as they were three hundred years ago.

Evelyn was especially inspirational, using flowers, flower buds, and all kinds of citrus in salad dressing and garnishing. I have omitted samphire (though in my college days, I used to collect it in Maine and cook with it), broom buds, pickled oysters, and “blue-fits” (whatever they are), as well as the roast capon. But by all means add sliced-up capon or any other chopped roast meat.

This is not a small salad and easily serves eight people. All the lettuces are washed in cold water and as Evelyn directs, “spin-dried” in a towel.

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Ingredients

Leaves

  • 1 bunch watercress, stemmed
  • 1 bunch sorrel, stemmed, cut in coarse shreds
  • 1 small bunch dandelion greens, bottom stems removed
  • 1 small red leaf lettuce, stemmed
  • 1 small curly endive, stemmed, outer green tips removed
  • 1 small escarole, stemmed, outer green tips removed

Garnish

  • 6 leaves fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, soaked in white wine for 2 hours, chopped
  • 4 jumbo black California marinated olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe figs, stemmed, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or unripe grape juice, called verjuice)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup walnut oil
  • 1 small radicchio, stemmed, cut in fine shreds
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put all the leaves in a large chilled bowl.

Put the mint, sage, capers, olives, walnuts, and figs in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, and then ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper. Mix until the salt is dissolved. Beat in the olive and walnut oils with a fork.

Pour this sauce over the greens and toss together well. Sprinkle the radicchio and orange zest over the top of the salad, and add a little more salt and pepper to the top.

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