SALADS AND SHORE SUMMERS ARE SPIRITUALLY AND PRACTICALLY JOINED, BUT HOW TO MAKE ONE THAT’S UNIQUE, FULL-FLAVORED, AND APPEALING?
BY CHEF DAVID BURKE • FOOD PHOTO BY ROBERT NUZZIE
When May arrives at the Shore, people get crazy. This hasn’t changed since I was a kid lifeguarding on Sea Bright beaches. You simply can’t beat our summers.
But, along with this weather comes swimsuits, so now is when salads transition from a side to a main course at my restaurants. And they don’t have to be boring! Add a little innovation and they can be fun, healthy, and satisfying.
To create a dish that’s unique, I experiment with favor and texture pushing boundaries and re-imagining old favorites. I love classics like Cobb, Caesar, and wedge salads, but use them as a foundation, then think outside the box.
And the timing couldn’t be better; there’s a tsunami of seasonal ingredients coming into the kitchens; Jersey produce is cranking now with beautiful lettuces, spinach, asparagus, arugula, strawberries, and peas. Fresh herbs and seasonal seafood are available too, like Maryland Blue Crabs and Alaskan King Salmon. Proteins frequently applied in my reinvented classics include lobster, scallops, soft-shell crabs… even meatballs perhaps on a crisp bed of romaine tossed with an herb-infused oil, vinegar, or citrus, and garnished with crunchy, spicy croutons. Adding spices kicks things up a notch or two.
LOBSTER COBB SALAD
Ingredients For The Dressing
3/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup coarsely chopped tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon scallion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chili powder Pinch salt
For The Salad
3 large eggs Fine sea salt (as needed)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 medium romaine lettuce head, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 4 cups total)
2 bunches watercress, tough stems discarded
1/2 small head of iceberg lettuce cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
3 cups packed arugula, cut into 1/8-inch-wide slices
1/2 cup scallions (green parts only), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup tarragon leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 One-pound lobsters (the cooked meat from each) Black pepper, freshly ground (as needed)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
4 slices crisp cooked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces Crisped fried shallots (for garnish)
Preparation For The Dressing
Combine ingredients and salt to taste in a bowl. Whisk until blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.
For The Salad
Have an ice-water bath ready. Place eggs and a pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed pot with enough cold water to cover. Add the vinegar to keep eggs from leaking out if their shells crack during cooking. Bring water to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low, cooking for three minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to the ice-water bath to cool.
Peel eggs and cut them in half. In a large bowl, toss salad greens, scallions, 1/4 cup of the tarragon, and the cheese. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lobster meat and cook for about two minutes on each side. Add the remaining 1/4-cup tarragon and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the lobster to a cutting board, and cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces.
To Assemble: Season the salad greens with the dressing, salt and pepper to taste. Toss well. Top with lobster, avocado, egg halves, bacon and fried shallots. Serve immediately.