From Fine Cooking #129, pp. 43-49
Each episode of our TV show Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking is a culinary road trip: We visit a part of the country, gather together the area's best chefs and artisans, and then, cameras rolling, cook a feast for lucky friends and family. All of the food has been amazing-as you can see for yourself by watching full episodes at FineCooking.tv-but what we crave right now are the colorful, seasonal salads that turned up on table after table: a jewel-like roasted beet and strawberry salad created by chef Matt Jennings for a rooftop feast in Providence, Rhode Island; a gorgeous green salad topped with crispy fennel fritters by chef Tim LaBant for the episode taped at Millstone Farm in Wilton, Connecticut; and a roasted carrot salad topped with a browned-butter and honey vinaigrette made by host Pete Evans at that same Connecticut farm.
Like glamorous movie stars, the salads take some time to get camera ready, and all require making a few different elements. But none of the work is tricky, and most can be done ahead. Follow these recipes, and you will get spectacular results-on your very first take.
Tim LaBant, chef/owner
The Schoolhouse, Cannondale, Connecticut
In the Millstone Farm episode, which takes place in Wilton, Connecticut, Tim LaBant seems perfectly at home-as he should. Both he and his wife, Julie, who is also his partner in the restaurant, were born in the small, historic town. (They first met in kindergarten.) LaBant often buys ingredients for his nearby restaurant from Millstone and regularly hosts farm-to-table dinners there.
That's probably why, when he forgot the buttermilk he planned to use in a bacon-buttermilk dressing for his fennel-fritter salad, he felt at ease pilfering a jar of pickled ramps from the farm's pantry and using some of the briny liquid to create a vinaigrette.
That salad was delicious but also very specific to the moment and place, as some of the best cooking is. Since buttermilk is usually easier to procure than pickled ramps, however, we're giving you the recipe LaBant intended to make that day. The creamy, smoky dressing, combined with crisp fritters and fresh greens, is divine. That said, feel free to change the dressing if you like, as that truly reflects LaBant's style. "We're always doing stuff differently," says LaBant, whose dishes rely heavily on what's available from local sources. "We never do the same thing twice."
Get the recipe: Mixed Greens with Fennel–Parmesan Fritters and Bacon–Buttermilk Dressing
Pete Evans, chef/owner
Bar Nacional, Melbourne, Australia
Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking host Pete Evans may not be that well known in the U.S. (yet), but in his native Australia, the chef, restaurateur (he's opened seven), and cookbook author is a celebrity; he's a regular on TV and is co-host of a popular cooking show, My Kitchen Rules.
For every Moveable Feast dinner, Evans cooks right alongside the guest chefs, contributing at least one dish to every meal. One of our favorites from season one was also one of his simplest: a salad of perfectly roasted, just-picked young carrots served with a browned-butter vinaigrette and yogurt flecked with mint.
During the filming of the episode featuring that salad (also at Millstone Farm in Wilton, Connecticut), Evans sampled honey right out of the farm's hives and liked it so much that he used it in his vinaigrette. The best part (aside from not getting stung)? Evans got to serve his dish to Jacques Pepin, another guest chef on the episode and one of his culinary heroes.
Get the recipe: Roasted-Carrot Salad with Honey and Almonds
Matt Jennings, chef/owner
Farmstead, Providence, Rhode Island
Since 2003, Matt Jennings and his wife, pastry chef Kate Jennings, have owned and operated Farmstead, a cheese shop with a full-service restaurant next door.
Jennings, whose many tattoos include a wild boar, is a three-time winner of Cochon 555, a competition in which five chefs prepare a menu using an entire 200-lb. heritage pig. So it was no surprise that one of the two dishes he cooked for the Providence episode of Moveable Feast was grilled pork belly. What got people talking, however, was the exquisite beet and strawberry salad he made. It even prompted a little ribbing in the kitchen, where he was cooking alongside Moveable Feast host Pete Evans and chef Ken Oringer.
"So it's not all just about pig for you?" asked Evans as he watched Jennings daintily layering some pristine white baby beets over a deeply colored beet purée.
"No," replied Jennings, "I love vegetables. In fact, it's funny because I like working with vegetables probably the most."
"You're just saying that to be sensitive," joked Oringer.
"Ha!" laughed Jennings, who then proceeded to add some sliced lardo to his salad, too.
Get the recipe: Warm Beet and Strawberry Salad with Lardo and Cava Vinaigrette