Market Finds

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

California Crunch

I was born in New York City and would certainly classify myself as an "east coast kinda gal", albeit a very well travelled east coast gal.  Somehow, Los Angeles has not been a place that I have often visited.  Why?  Perhaps all New York natives have some angst towards L.A. embedded in their D.N.A., or maybe it was just an honest lack of opportunity.   I had traveled there once for spring break with my family when I was about fourteen and had a great time.  That was many years ago, and have not been back since, so I was excited to have an excuse to head out to the left coast for my annual culinary conference hosted by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.  

First off, let me say, the weather is amazing.  I realize that this is not earth shattering news to anyone who lives there, but coming from pollen infested Atlanta, it was an especially welcome relief.  Additionally, on a strictly vain note, I never had a bad hair day during my visit.  This must be why all the movie stars and models live here.  Sunshine and dry air do wonders for your physical well-being.

Now on to my raison d'ĂȘtre, the food.  On my short visit, I only barely scratched the surface, but did my best to fit in as many tastes as possible.  Certainly the most amazing adventure I had was a tour of Korea Town.  From food courts to a barbecue restaurant, it was a day filled with new sights, smells and flavors.  The conference provided many opportunities to sample food from local restaurants and I was lucky to have dinners out with my Atlanta colleagues as well as new friends made a the conference.  We dined at Drago Centro, The Bazaar-by JosĂ© Andres, The Hollywood Grill and and Pizzaria Mozza, as well as a walking lunch of tamales and tacos at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

The conference, the people I met and of course, the city of Los Angeles left me inspired.  On my flight home, I mulled over what to do with the lovely bag of figs that were gifted to conference goers by the California Fig Advisory Board.  The result is my California Crunch Salad, which is a lighter, modern twist on a classic broccoli salad.  The golden figs are a perfect substitute for the usual raisins, found in a broccoli salad.  I think this salad perfectly embodies the spirit of L.A.  It's crunchy, colorful, filled with a variety of good things, and most importantly, it is portable and can be eaten outside, while you soak in the California sunshine and show of your fabulous west coast hair.

A modern take on a classic picnic salad, garnished with a beautiful golden fig from the gift bag I received at #IACP16, courtesy of the California Fig Advisory Board
Colorful and crunchy salad ingredients

California Crunch Salad:

1 large red onion, 1/2 dice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized florets
2 cups orange cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
2 cups purple cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
3 slices proscuitto, crisped and crumbled
1/2 cup golden California figs, chopped
1/2 cup roasted and shelled California pistachios, chopped
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
2 T fresh chives, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T while balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste


1) Place diced onions on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place into a reheated 425 degree oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until onions are softened and brown around the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

2) In a large pot of salted, boiling water, blanch the broccoli florets for 40 seconds, just until color turns a vibrant green.  Remove from boiling water with a spider or slotted spoon and immediately run broccoli under cold running water.  Set aside to drain.

3) Place all of the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine.

4) In a large bowl, combine the roasted onions, blanched broccoli, cauliflower, proscuitto, figs, pistachios, goat cheese and chives. Drizzle with dressing and toss to combine.  The salad can be eaten immediately, served in a lettuce cup along side a couple of slices of avocado or placed in the refrigerator to marinate.  It will only get better over time.

The Passionate Plate: Making every plate something to be passionate about!