$25 on salad,” he says. “Any chef or restaurant will do their
own work to have relationships with a local fish company and
find a way to have a beautiful dish that will be fresh and do well
from the margin side. Seafood is expensive. It’s not an easy
task, but you don’t want to compromise quality.”
EXPLORING SALAD BOUNDARIES
Contrasting temperatures and textures is top of mind in any
dish—including salads—that Becker develops. This led him to
create charred octopus salad slow-cooked in extra virgin olive
oil and tossed with apple/jicama slaw and crispy quinoa.
“Apples oxidize and turn brown and mushy, but you still
want the flavor of apples,” he says. “By mixing apples and jica-
ma, you get the texture and flavor you want. Mix that with octo-
pus, and you have something that can change people’s opinion
about octopus. You make it approachable.”
Salad has become a more broadly used term of late, says
Pond of Area Four. It could be a cold tossed version or a warm
bean salad. It could also demonstrate unusual ingredient pair-
ings. He makes a Thai squid salad that combines roasted,
cooled and thinly sliced squid with savoy cabbage, mint, cel-
lophane noodles, peppered peanuts, pickled carrots and daikon,
bean sprouts and lime dressing.
For Pond and his team, the inspiration for this combo started with the bright acidic vinaigrette that contains sugar, simple
syrup, fish sauce, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, jalapeño, ginger, lemongrass and garlic all blended together, steeped for an
hour and strained. “With that, we wanted cold pickled vegetables. Then the peppered peanuts made sense,” he says.
To candy the peanuts, he
toasts them first to enhance the
flavor and tosses them warm
with simple syrup, salt and
pepper. He then puts them in
a convection oven using low
heat and a high fan to dry them
until they turn crispy. “It’s a
highlight for the salad,” Pond says.
The thinly sliced squid goes well with
it. “People are pleasantly surprised by how
bright and fresh it is. Plus, it’s pretty on the plate
with the pickles and greenery.”
Fruit and seafood also fits in the broad salad spectrum.
Tikaram with E.P. & L.P. combines wood-fired grilled tuna with
green mango, cilantro, Thai basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves
and a dressing of roasted chili combined with dry roasted shallots,
lime juice and fish sauce. “It has the beautiful rich flavor of the
tuna with greens and mango for a great texture, plus the smoky,
limey citrus dressing that brings it all together. It’s beautiful as a
richer salad,” he says.
Green papaya combined with scallops, shrimp or tuna is
popular, says Marquez of La Zaranda Modern Kitchen & Tequila.
“Green papaya is acidic but with a bit of sugar.”
He borrowed from Japanese sushi for a fun twist on a traditional
salad, creating Blue Crab and Tuna Lettuce Roll Salad. In place
of nori wraps, he blanches, shocks, dries off and reserves romaine
lettuce leaves. In a bowl, he combines fresh blue crab and tuna.
For a better price, he simply uses blue crab. He adds onions,
ginger, fine-diced serrano pepper, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper,
red onion and finely chopped cilantro. He rolls the mixture in the
romaine leaves and refrigerates to cool.
A fan of Caesar salad, Marquez has switched it up a bit with
a creamier Caesar salad dressing and octopus as the protein.
The crunch of the lettuce combined with the flavor and chew
of grilled octopus and the creaminess of avocado and salad dressing—all topped with a little grated Parmesan cheese—is a perfect
combination, he says.
He’s comfortable replacing chicken in salads with octopus,
because customers are ready for lighter proteins that they know
are hormone-free. “People are more interested in seafood than
they were 10 years ago,” Marquez says.
The ocean also provides a salad finishing touch. “For more
seafood, salmon roe or caviar make that extra little burst at the
end for freshness or garnish,” says Tikaram with E.P. & L.P.
JoDy SHee, AN olATHe, k ANSAS-BASeD FreelANCe wrITer AND eDITor, PrevIoUSly wAS
eDITor oF A FooDServICe MAgAzINe. SHe HAS More THAN 20 yeArS oF FooD-wrITINg
exPerIeNCe AND wrITeS THe Blog www.SHeeFooD.CoM.
seafooD salad from the sea
above righ T: Poached seafood salad with squid, mussels and shrimp with red chili
nahm jim sauce, cilantro and mint at e.P. & l.P.
below: Charred octopus salad at Juniper.