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Two Classic French Salads: Lyonnaise Salad and Leeks Vinaigrette

It is definitely the time of year when food and wine is simply gorgeous. This of course makes walking through the green market an exercise in restraint. I want to buy one of everything. But inevitably, my choices come down to a combination of weekly staples (bacon ends, eggs, cheese, a loaf of chiabata, herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, scallions) and whatever fruits and vegetables that catch my eye. This combination in turn becomes the foundation of many equally gorgeous meals. 

My mother often laughs that my affinity for bacon comes from my Eastern European roots -- which is probably true given the (copious) amount of pork/pork fat that the Poles have consumed over the centuries. But using animal protein/fat for flavoring (and preservation) is the hallmark of many cuisine throughout the whole of Europe. 

With that said, there are many ways to flavor a vegetable dish besides using animal protein or fat.

I was reminded of this recently, as I was thumbing through David Lebovitz's new cookbook, My Paris Kitchen, from which both of the recipes in this blog post are adapted. 

Vegetable oils, vinegars, dijon mustard, sea salt, pepper, anchovies and herbs factor heavily in Lebovitz's recipes. He also incorporates eggs into many of his dishes, which makes total sense. After all, doesn't everything taste better with a runny poached egg on top of it?

Case in point: Salade Lyonnaise. This salad is a very provincial dish, which is traditionally served in small cafes (bouchons) in Lyon, France. 

The salad consists of frisee lettuce, lardons, new potatoes and croutons, and is dressed with a mustard-based vinaigrette.  It is topped with a poached egg, which adds depth and luciousness to the dish as the yoke oozes onto and throughout the salad.

Poireaux Vinaigrette, or leeks vinaigrette, is another French classic dish, which celebrates the marriage of summer vegetables, a mustard vinaigrette and fresh eggs. Lebovitz adds some bacon for good measure, but it is not a traditional ingredient.

Unlike scallions and onions, leeks require considerable effort to clean and prep -- owing to their propensity to harbor sand/dirt in every imaginable nook and cranny. But once they are cleaned and cooked, this salad comes together very quickly

I poured the vinaigrette over the leeks when they were still slightly warm and let then let them marinate for a few hours before dinner. Oh my. What a treat.

The French would serve both of these dishes as a first course. But both of these gorgeous salads can also be served as a light main course, with a crusty piece of bread and a glass of chilled rose for good measure.

The printable recipes are here:

Lyonnaise Salad

Leeks Vinaigrette




Corn Chowder 

All winter long, I trudged through the snow to go to the farmer's market. Martyr, no. Winter warrior, yes. Or so they called us at the Tribeca Greenmarket. And for those of us who braved the elements for 10 weeks, we were rewarded a $5 gift certificate and accolades from our peers. OK, the latter is a bit of an exaggeration. But the certificate was greatly appreciated.

In my view, the real winter warriors were a small group of farmers, who drove into the city every Saturday despite the frigid weather. The largest group of vendors were meat and poultry farmers (Hudson Valley Duck, Dipaola Turkey Farm, Yellow Bell Farm), but the Amish farmer from Millbrook Dairy was also there selling eggs, cheese, bacon, smoked ham hocks and pickles, as was the The Hot Bread Kitchen and Ronnybrook Farms. There was also a small number of fruit and vegetable farmers who were selling produce out of their root cellars.

In the deep freeze, I really appreciated the fresh carrots, beets, onions, potatoes, cabbage and apples that the farmers squirreled away. It also made me appreciate that there was once a time when people needed to store up for the winter if they wanted produce. 

Now that the polar vortex is a distance memory, I am happy to say that the greenmarket is back in full swing. And slowly but surely, late spring vegetables, fruit, and flowers are showing up, as well as fresh fish, cheese and mushrooms.

This week, I came home with a bonanza which included rhubarb, lettuce, mesclun, chives, radishes, red scallions, asparagus, green house tomatoes, mushrooms and peonies. Yes peonies!! My favorite. Fresh cheese, bread and bacon ends also made their way into my basket. (I also spotted leeks, spinach and other greens -- but that is for another day.)

It will be a while before fresh tomatoes and corn make their way to market. But fresh corn from California seems to be popping up in the grocery stores, and it is quite good. I picked some up this morning and decided to make some corn chowder for a light dinner. The leftover has been slated for brown bag lunches this week.

This recipe hails from June 2014 edition of Martha Stewart Living, and was quite easy to put together. Shallots, white wine and bacon lend flavor to the soup, while a few (new) potatoes add additional texture. The recipe calls for the addition of a chopped green zucchini -- which I did not have on hand and omitted.

After the corn and potatoes were cooked, I gave the soup a few quick whirls with my immersion blender. This thickened the soup nicely and gave it more depth. I then finished it off with a splash of cream for richness, and some chopped chives for color and flavor. 

This soup was really lovely and would be a wonderful way to use up left over corn on the cob or new potatoes. Best of all, it was done in under 30 minutes! 

Now I will just need to wait patiently for fresh berries and stone fruit to show up!

The printable recipe is here.