Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Basque Tossed Salad

Large Platter of Basque Salad
Basque Salad: Beautiful and Delicious

Recipe adapted from Cuba Cocina!

This recipe comes from a 1994 Cuban inspired cookbook written by Joyce LaFray, an American who lived for many years in Miami, then traveled to Cuba to gather recipes. According to the cookbook, this recipe was brought to Cuba by Spanish-Basque ancestors. A quick web search shows that, unlike Greek salad, “Basque salad” has no standard ingredients, likely due to the complexity and diversity of Basque culture. This Spanish Basque salad combines produce grown in the fertile Ebro Valley with traditional Spanish olives and capers. Lighter than many Basque salads, it makes a colorful and elegant presentation for luncheon or late night sustenance.

Bowl of marinating veggies, plate of toppings, plate of greens
Marinated Veggies, Greens & Toppings
Unlike many salads, this is not a quick throw-together. There are four parts to prepare: the greens, the dressing, the veggies that marinate in the dressing, and the toppings. Preparation of this salad is faster and more fun if two people participate. Few steps require much finesse, so alcoholic drinks and other small bribes can be employed to find kitchen helpers. It’s true that this might cause dinner to be delayed, as it was in my house. But one of the beauties of this salad is that, with egg for protein, it can serve as a full meal that is light enough to be eaten late in the evening, as is traditional in Spain.

Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, Red Onion, and Lime in Basket
Summer Salad Veggies
The original recipe does not give cup-equivalents for most vegetables, so I’ve added that. Proportion of tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumber are somewhat adjustable. I’ve eliminated the extra tomatoes for topping, as they seemed redundant. I’ve adjusted the hard cooked egg topping: for a side salad, use the smaller (original) egg quantity; for a main dish, consider using more. I’ve also substituted water for part of the olive oil to cut calories (and olive oil expenses). You might use the original ¾ cup, although even when reduced, a good olive oil adds significant flavor. Next time I’ll slice a few extra manzanilla olives to serve as an additional topping.

Small Amount of Basque Salad in Bowl
Single Side Salad Serving
Ensalada Vasca (Basque Salad)
serves 3 – 4

2 – 4 eggs (for topping)
4 cups salad greens
2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes
2 cups peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber
½ cup chopped bell pepper
1 tsp. finely chopped capers
2 tbsp. finely chopped pimento-stuffed manzanilla olives
3 cloves garlic
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. minced red onion
½ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 – ¾ cup olive oil
Water, if using less olive oil
6 – 8 manzanilla pimento-stuffed olives for topping
Flat leaf parsley for topping

Precook eggs: Hard cook the eggs. Plunge into cold water, peel, and chill in refrigerator.

Prepare greens: Chop, tear, or shred the salad greens (I used a mixture of romaine and butter lettuce). Arrange on a serving platter, cover, and chill in refrigerator.

Prepare marinated part of salad: Seed and chop tomatoes into ~ ¾-inch chunks. Peel, seed, and chop cucumbers into similar-sized chunks. Drain tomatoes and cucumbers while preparing toppings and dressing. Chop bell pepper, capers, and olives.

Prepare toppings: When eggs are cold, chop finely. Slice the olives that were set aside for garnish. Remove parsley leaves from stems and chop lightly if desired.

Prepare dressing: Pour salt and dried oregano over the garlic cloves on a cutting board. With the flat part of a cleaver or large knife, mash the garlic with the salt and oregano (this mellows the garlic). Chop and mash the garlic, salt, and oregano until it is smooth, consistent, well blended, and paste-like.

Put garlic mixture into large bowl. Add finely chopped onion, sugar, lime juice, red wine vinegar. Whisk together until blended.

If you are substituting water for part of the olive oil, add the amount of oil that you like to a cup measure (I used 1/3 cup, but ½ cup would also work fine). Add water to the ¾ cup level. Alternatively, just measure the ¾ cup olive oil.

Whisk oil (or oil/water mixture) into dressing. Whisk continuously for 3 minutes to blend thoroughly.

Assemble salad: Add drained tomato and cucumber, bell pepper, capers, and finely chopped olives to the dressing. Toss well. Let sit a minute or two. Meanwhile, remove salad greens from refrigerator. Toss marinating veggies well again and spoon onto chilled greens. Top with chopped egg, sliced olives, and parsley. Serve immediately.

How Garlic Should Look after Chopping with Salt and Oregano
Smashed, Chopped Garlic, Salt & Oregano

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