I have been seduced again and again by the cultural beauty of Mediterranean countries where the light and the saturated colors seem to appear everywhere in nature. It is fascinating when that besotted gaze falls on Northern climes and the Scandinavian palette of blues, whites and grays.
I’ve come to rely upon the founding editor of “Gastronomica,” Darra Goldstein, for her expertise on Russian and Georgian food. Her latest cookbook is “Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking.” So many foods in the book speak to me, from the rhubarb tosca cake and the juniper butter to the West Coast Salad, which in Darra’s words, showcases the stunning bounty of the sea.
Dara Goldstein’s West Coast Salad (Vestkystsalat)
Small shrimp (51/60 count per pound) work best for this salad recipe. However, if you use medium-size shrimp instead, Goldstein suggests slicing them in half lengthwise so that they’ll be bite-size.
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
8 oz small white mushrooms, sliced to ¼-inch
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp salt
1 lb small or medium shrimp, unpeeled
1 lb mussels, cleaned
8 oz fresh crab meat
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
2 heads Bibb lettuce, about 6 cups loosely packed
Garlic-Dill Vinaigrette (recipe follows below)
Creamy Dressing (recipe follows below)
For the mushrooms: Toss the sliced mushrooms in a bowl with lemon juice and set aside in the refrigerator.
For the shrimp: Boil the water, together with a half-cup of wine and a tablespoon of salt in a large pot. If using small shrimp, cook them for just over a minute. If using medium-size shrimp, cook for about 2 minutes. Drain the shrimp, then peel and devein them once they are cool enough to handle. If using medium shrimp, slice them in half lengthwise so that they will be bite-size. Cover the shrimp and set them aside in the refrigerator.
For the mussels: Next, place the mussels in a large pot with the remaining half-cup of wine. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cooking until the mussels open wide, about 5 to 7 minutes depending upon their size. Drain and remove the mussels from their shells once they are cool enough to handle. You should have about 4 ounces of mussels. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
For the asparagus: Trim the woody ends off the asparagus and cut the spears into thirds lengthwise. Bring a small amount of salted water to a boil in a skillet and add the asparagus. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the asparagus covered, until just tender but still crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately run under cold water to prevent them from cooking further. Cover and set the asparagus aside in the refrigerator.
For the lettuce: Wash the lettuce and discard any blemished outer leaves. Tear the leaves into bite-size pieces.
To assemble: Arrange the lettuce, dressed mushrooms, shrimp, mussels, crab meat and asparagus on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Just before serving, pour half of the Garlic-Dill Vinaigrette over the salad ingredients. Pour the rest of the vinaigrette into a small pitcher to pass at the table, along with the Creamy Dressing.
1½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the vinaigrette: Stir the vinegar, mustard and minced garlic together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil until an emulsion forms. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, then stir in the fresh dill.
½ cup crème fraîche
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the dressing: Stir all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside in the refrigerator.