Joyce Goldstein puts it bluntly: Salads don’t get the respect they deserve among chefs. A veteran chef and restaurant consultant, Joyce said it’s been her experience that some chefs “have no idea how to construct a great salad.” They typically give the task to the least experienced person in the kitchen, with instructions to “put some greens in a bowl and throw on some gloppy dressing.”
And here’s Joyce’s rant about salad bars. “Salad bars have produced even worse results because they put out a range of ingredients that may or may not belong in the same bowl and let the diner pick and choose and then put on a dressing that nine out of 10 times does not go with half of the ingredients in the bowl,” she says.
Joyce — whose straightforward tone is known as “Joycespeak” — has made it her mission to ensure salad gets the respect it deserves. She’s written an excellent book devoted to the topic: Mediterranean Fresh (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008). It shows how to design great salads and how to choose the dressings that best complement them. Joyce brings her passion for Mediterranean cuisine to the effort.
For a dozen years — 1984 to 1996 — she operated the trailblazing Mediterranean restaurant, San Francisco-based Square One. There, she moved beyond the traditional Mediterranean foods that restaurants were serving at the time.
Goldstein and staffers prepared dishes from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to the already popular cuisine from Mediterranean countries such as Italy and France.
There was one particular dish in strong demand during the summer: a Lebanese variation of tabbouleh known as fattoush. Unlike tabbouleh, which uses bulgur, tabbouleh relies on toasted pita bread. “Not just our customers, but our staff, too, would start requesting it in late June,” said Joyce. “I’d say, ‘Please be patient. We have to wait until the tomatoes are perfect—ripe and plump.’”
Like the other salads in the book, the fattoush is easy to prepare. Pita breads are baked in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until dry. When cooled, the bread is broken into large, bite-sized pieces.
The pita is tossed with diced tomato, cucumber, red onion, green onion, romaine and mint. You can add purslane, considered a “gourmet weed.” And you can add sumac to the citrus vinaigrette that you make to dress the fattoush. It combines fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
“While adding more substantial ingredients might not be authentic, you can extend this salad by adding strips of cooked chicken or lamb, or even a few shrimp if you want to turn it into a full meal,” says Joyce.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch