Simple Art of Cooking: Good Food Always in Season

I’ve just had the most amazing roast beet salad at the new St. Regis Hotel in Bal Harbor, Florida, where Jean-Georges Vongerichten has opened a restaurant. Wish I had details of the recipe to share with you but it goes like this—red and golden roasted beets with sweet crispy shallots, fresh mint, chervil, candied hazelnuts covered deliciously with a goat’s milk yogurt dressing.

The produce above is in season here in Miami where I’m taking some R&R. Of course I will adapt and prepare the dish at home and share it with you this summer when all of the above will be in season on the East End—can hardly wait. Perhaps Vongerichten, who was Dan’s Papers host of last summer’s Taste of Two Forks event in Bridgehampton, will share the recipe. I will try to ask him.

Yes, it’s very much still winter up north yet winter can offer a whole season worth of pungent greens, legumes, fruits and vegetables for light and healthy winter salad pleasures. Doing ahead is always helpful—such as washing and spin-drying greens ahead, even to refrigerate overnight as in the delectable arugula, feta and pear salad, and cooking legumes ahead, such as white beans, to team up with one of my favorite vegetables, fennel, in a lively, lemony vinaigrette.

Arugula, Pear and Feta Cheese Salad

Toss a couple of healthy bunches of arugula greens with crumbled feta and Comice pears that are at their peak of juicy ripeness. A flavorful balsamic vinegar and fruity extra-virgin olive oil will make it all sing.

Serves 6 to 8

2 to 3 bunches fresh arugula leaves

1/4 to 1/3 pound French or Greek feta, crumbled

4 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons imported balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 ripe, but not overripe, Comice pears, cored and cubed

1. Wash arugula greens in a salad spinner; spread one layer deep on a long length of paper towels and roll up to absorb excess moisture. Securely close in zip-lock bags and refrigerate if doing ahead. They will remain fresh and crisp for several hours or overnight.

2. When ready to serve, bring the greens to room temperature and pile into a large mixing bowl. Crumble the feta over the greens. Add the olive oil and gently toss to mix. Sprinkle over the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat the leaves. Add the pears and carefully fold into the salad. Divide equally on 6 to 8 plates and serve at once.

Julienne of Fennel and White Bean Salad

Keep fennel refrigerated until ready to use to ensure freshness.

Serves 6

Fennel Salad

1 firm, large fennel bulb

1 medium clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

White Bean Salad

2 cups cooked white beans

2 shallots, finely chopped

3–4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small head radicchio, leaves pulled into cups: washed and spin-dried

1. Remove tops of fennel at bulb level. Feathery tops can be used for garnish if desired. Remove and discard tough or any bruised outer layers. Slice fennel in half vertically and discard base from each half. Place each half cut side down and cut into thin slices, then into julienne sticks. Put in a bowl of cold water and let soak for 20 minutes to crisp. Drain and dry thoroughly in a clean kitchen towel.

2. Place fennel in a mixing bowl; add garlic, parsley and lemon juice and toss to mix to coat. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the cooked beans with shallots, oil and vinegar.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

4. Divide lettuce cups and arrange on 4 to 6 plates. Divide equal amounts of bean and fennel salad, side by side in each lettuce cup.

Serve at room temperature.

Visit Silvia’s website at to read her blogs and more recipes.

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