Tips to a better salad from Jacques Pepin
Want to build a better salad? Lose the chill, ditch some of the fruit and get the proportions of the vinaigrette right.
That’s the advice of Jacques Pepin, one of the nation’s premier culinary voices, star of a new public television series — “Essential Pepin” — that will air in the fall, and the first contributor to The Associated Press’ new warm weather cooking series — 20 Summer Salads.
Pepin says a great salad can be simple, so long as the ingredients are fresh and the proportions are right. Too many berries or other fruit produce a salad that is too sweet. Likewise, most salads taste best when served cool, but not cold.
“Also important is the use of great quality oils and vinegars,” he said in an email interview. “And these should be mixed in the proper ratios: one part vinegar to three parts oil, or one part vinegar to four parts oil.”
Getting it right is worth the trouble. Pepin thinks a memorable salad has the power to live long after the meal.
“The first time I had a Caesar salad, it was served to me by my wife. It had tiny whole romaine leaves, fresh lemon juice, raw egg yolks, olive oil, croutons, etc.,” he said. “This was a new combination of tastes for me and I have enjoyed it ever since.”
For The Associated Press, Pepin offered a warm salad of bacon or pancetta tossed with white beans. It is a hearty salad, but still feels fresh thanks to a generous use of vinegar and chopped fresh parsley.
“I love beans, and particularly white beans,” he said. “When they are combined with pancetta and seasoned with vinegar, garlic and olive oil, the result is a salad that is almost like a stew.”
Pepin’s recipe calls for small white navy beans, but you can substitute any similar variety. He prefers lean slab bacon or pancetta cut into thick slices, then sliced into small cubes, but regular bacon is fine.
Warm Bean and Bacon Salad
Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s “Essential Pepin,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October, 2011.
Start to finish: 20 minutes. Servings: 6.
8 ounces slab bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
6 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
Two 15 1/2-ounce can navy or other small white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place the bacon or pancetta in a medium saucepan over low heat. Saute, covered, for about 8 minutes, or until the meat has rendered much of its fat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 seconds. Transfer the contents of the saucepan, fat and all, to large bowl.
Add the beans, salt, parsley, vinegar, oil and pepper. Mix well, then serve warm or at room temperature.