A salad of herbs is common elsewhere, but not in the English Speaking countries (in general). However herb-full salads are extraordinary and worth seeking out and making.
This one is inspired by a salad in Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi, but his is far too fussy for me. There is no way that I am going to spend hours picking leaves from the stalks of herbs. So I mixed it up to make my version of the salad.
This salad is made with herbs – rather than cutting or slicing them, the leaves are plucked (with stem) to form leaf-sized pieces. I used the herbs available in my kitchen and garden. It is a fresh and lively salad. We kept Ottolenghi’s almonds for texture and the butter-lemon dressing, and added radishes and betel leaves. The betel leaves are optional of course – my Asian grocery stocks them so occasionally I bring some home. To soften them we wave in a gas flame and then use them as a bed for the salad.
Herby Salad with Radishes and Burnt Betel Leaves
This makes a large salad. When feeding only a few of us, I usually make this salad in small portions, about 1/3 of the recipe
2 cups (35 g) coriander leaves
1.26 cups (40 g) flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 cups (20 g) dill leaves
1 cup (35 g) tarragon leaves
1.25 cups (30 g) basil leaves
2 cups (40 g) rocket leaves (optional)
other optional herbs: mint, Thai basil, bergamot, fennel, a little oregano
3.5 Tblspn (50 g) unsalted butter
heaping 1 cup (150 g) whole unskinned almonds (or use flaked almonds if that is what you have in the kitchen)
0.5 tspn coarse sea salt
0.5 tspn freshly ground black pepper
2 Tblspn lemon juice
1 Tblspn olive oil
betel leaves (optional)
red radishes, sliced (optional)
Pluck the leaves from the herbs, rather than cut or slice them.
Gently immerse the herb leaves in plenty of cold water, being careful not to bruise them. Drain in a colander and then dry in a salad spinner or by spreading them over a clean kitchen towel. (Once dry, the herbs will keep in the fridge for up to 1 day. Store them in a sealed container lined with a few layers of paper towels.)
Take the betel leaves, if using, and hold each one for a moment in the gas flame of your stove top (or roast in a hot pan for a couple of moments). Layer the leaves on a plate.
Take the radish slices and adorn the plate.
Heat the butter in a frying pan and add to the almonds, salt and pepper. Saute for 5 to 6 minutes over low to medium heat, until the almonds are golden (only about a minute or less for almond slices).
With a slotted spoon, remove the almonds carefully onto a chopping board. Make sure you keep the butter that’s left in the pan. Leave it somewhere warm so it doesn’t set.
Once the almonds are cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the whole ones with a large knife. The flaked almonds can be left as they are. Toss the herbs in a large bowl with the almonds, cooking butter, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss gently and season to taste, place in a pile on the betel leaves and then serve immediately.
recipe notes and alternatives
The radish slices can be tossed with the herbs.