When Ilana and I were in Thailand two years back waiting for a boat to take us from Raleigh Beach to the mainland, I remember saying something like “Dude, I’m craving a fried chicken sandwich but I don’t want to eat chicken.” It flared up an hour-long conversation about vegetarian comfort food - fast-food classics remapped to use vegetables in lieu of meat. The first rule was to use only vegetables, not fake meat - with the idea that we would treat vegetables like the main course option they deserve to be, inspired by the kinds of preparations we’ve only ever saved for animals.
Schwarma made from cabbage or cauliflower… sausage made from beets, beans, and coconut, chicken-fried chicken of the woods mushrooms. It’s been funny to watch chefs like Rene Redzepi start doing the same. There must be some kind of collective human consciousness at play - adjusting our diets to account for a changing world and a food system that’s become heavily reliant on animal protein. Anyway, I guess you could say that this Spring Cobb salad stemmed from that idea.
I’ve always loved Cobb salad. (Ilana just told me she’s adored Cobb salad since the age of 7, so it seems like this was fated in the stars in some way). It’s basically a breakfast sandwich on a bed of lettuce and there’s something extremely satisfying about dipping your fork into creamy glops of bleu cheese dressing throughout the process. It’s one of those meal salads that covers all the bases without making you feel like crap. But we also always thought it could be better. We both find the chicken unnecessary and the bacon - while salty and delicious - leaves you feeling heavy. Smoky fried chickpeas do the job just fine, if not better. Plus this leaves room for the salad to highlight all the amazing vegetables that are popping out of the ground, and isn’t that the point of salad anyway?
This salad was made for Spring - utilizing the vegetables that we found at the market in Seattle - but it can be adjusted for any season. When English peas pop up around you, throw those in (raw or very lightly blanched) too. In the summer, string beans can replace the asparagus and heirloom or sungold tomatoes can join the party, too.
Spring Cobb Salad
Serves: 2-4 as a main dish
Make the dressing
Combine mustard and vinegar together in a blender with the tarragon. Blend to combine and chop the tarragon. Slowly add the oil as it’s running or if your blender can’t do that, add all the ingredients and blend until thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste*
Make The Salad
Clean and dry the lettuce leaves, cut into medium sized pieces. Cut the beets into wedges or chunks if they are larger, make the pieces bite-size but on the large end. Cut the asparagus in thirds and the eggs in large cubes (try cutting in half and then into quarters.)
Arrange the ingredients on top of the greens in quadrants for serving, either in one large bowl or in ind
individual bowls. Start with less dressing and add more as you toss, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper while mixing.
OR serve all ingredients in small bowls and let everyone build their own salad.
2 heads of lettuce (little gem, romaine, butter, or red leaf are best)
4 eggs, medium-boiled (~9 mins) *
4 medium beets, roasted *
1 bunch asparagus, blanched & cooled (ends removed)
1 serving smoky chickpeas
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
FOR THE DRESSING
2 tbs dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 2 tbsp
2 bunches tarragon, removed from stem and roughly chopped
salt & black pepper
It’s best to roast beets the day before by putting them, unpeeled in a small oven proof pan with an inch of water. Roast at 400 degrees covered until fork tender, about an 90 minutes. Peel while still slightly warm, and let cool in the fridge before serving.
You can also make the dressing by hand. To do this, chop the tarragon with a sharp knife until small but not a paste. Mix this with mustard and vinegar in a large metal bowl. Place a towel underneath the bowl to keep it from moving and slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously. Season with salt and pepper to taste.