"Salad Days," Marcel Desaulniers

Pros: Salad like you’ve never had it before!
Cons: A little too much oil in the dressings
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First posted 8/23/2000

You may remember cookbook author Marcel Desaulniers from my review of “Death by Chocolate,” in which I put forth the theory that Mr. Desaulniers must have made a deal with the devil in order to create and eat such fantastic food, yet remain so devilishly slender. Now I must add to my argument the fact that he has apparently won about a gazillion awards, which clearly points to demonic intervention.

What’s that? He deserves all those awards? Oh, well, hrm, you could have a point. Moving right along…

Salads

On the surface of it, this book seems to answer all our questions. “It’s a salad book. That’s how he stays so thin while eating lots of chocolate!” Instead, let me quote the beginning of the author’s own introduction to you: “Don’t let the name Salad Days fool you into thinking this book is about health food. No scrawny, naked greens clinging to a stark plate, begging for attention, are found here. No macrokilocaloric counts to confuse the cook into presenting fiber first, taste last. No fat grams quizzes, no new math sodium counts, no good-versus-bad cholesterol puzzles.” These are main-dish salads, not pathetic bits of lettuce to keep your guests busy while they wait for the entree.

Details

You’ll find a decent list of things to keep stocked in the pantry, and then a handful of salad dressing recipes. Yum! Each recipe in this book lists the equipment you’re likely to need, as well. Each recipe has several components to it, and two variations on top of that to make it even more of a main dish. Let’s look at one now:

One of my favorite recipes in this book is “Sliced Beets with Curly Endive, Red Bliss Potato Salad, Honey Mustard Roasted Walnuts, and Meaux Mustard Vinaigrette.” Yes, as you can imagine from this title, these salads take work like any other main dish. I’m not normally fond of beets, but they’re fantastic in this recipe. The honey mustard roasted walnuts have the perfect blend of sharp and sweet tastes. There are a couple of ingredients you might have trouble finding (red bliss potatoes; Moutarde de Meaux Pommery Mustard), but this isn’t a big deal. We substituted random red potatoes and a decent mustard, and all was delicious. The first variation for this recipe is the Walnut-Crusted Striped Bass. It wasn’t amazing, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I’m not overly fond of fish than with the recipe. After that comes the Honey Duck Stir-Fry Variation. I can’t wait to try it!

Each recipe has the same “Chef’s Touch” section as in “Death by Chocolate,” giving suggestions for substitution (the aforementioned mustard), storage, and so on, including even wine suggestions in this recipe. My only negative comment on this recipe was that the vinaigrette was too oily for our taste, but then it’s easy enough to reduce the amount of oil in the recipe. Each recipe serves four hungry people, and could easily be stretched to 6 or 8 as a side dish or main dish for less hungry people.

A Few Other Recipes to Tempt Your Palate

Romaine Lettuce, Granny Smith Apples, Toasted Hazelnuts, and New York State Cheddar Cheese with Sherry Wine Dressing. You’ll find a Grilled Veal Burger Variation, and a Grilled Apple-and-Onion-Stuffed Quail Variation.

Spicy Garden Slaw with Leaf Lettuce, Toasted Peanuts, Crispy Corn Biscuits, and Cayenne Dressing. Barbecued Chicken Leg Variation, and Smoked Catfish Variation.

Broccoli Boquet with Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Relish, Spaghetti Squash, Chiffonade of Spinach, and Balsamic Vinaigrette. Variations: Warm Marinated Scallops and Anchovies; Chicken Sausage.

Roasted Corn, Okra, and Pepper Relish with Corn Pasta, Red Leaf Lettuce, and Guacamole Dressing. Variations: Panfried Crabcake; Smoked Sausage.

Mandarin Orange Basmati Rice with Sesame Stir-Fried Vegetables, Tangy Red Cabbage, and Szechuan Peppercorn Vinaigrette. Variations: Orange and Cilantro Barbecued Catfish; Charred Flank Steak.

Peppered Honey Peaches with Warm Pecan Cakes, “Bitter” Salad Greens, and Sour Mash Vinaigrette. Variations: Turkey Scallopine with Basil and Zinfandel; Pecan-Crusted Soft-Shell Crab.

Deal with the Devil Explained

Okay, so if you read through the introduction all becomes clear. Mr. Desaulniers went vegetarian in order to fix a high cholesterol level. On top of this, he’s a long-distance runner (which is why he eventually stopped being entirely vegetarian).

I guess that blows a big hole in my theory, huh? Oh well. Maybe next time. Get the book anyway – the food tastes good enough to deserve a pact with Satan himself.

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