New California Vegetarian Cobb Salad

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time:  1 hour Cook Time:  1 hour 40 minutes

New California Vegetarian Cobb Salad

This vegetarian version of the Cobb salad is packed with all the hallmarks of California cuisine. I created it for my fantasy meal with Rashida Jones, a born and raised California girl. The Cobb salad, in case you didn’t know, is a California native dish invented by Robert Cobb sometime in the 1920s or 1930s and served at the famous Hollywood restaurant, The Brown Derby. This version is packed with luscious California-style ingredients.

Don’t get scared off by the long list below: you can definitely prepare all the components up to two days ahead, refrigerate them separately, and assemble them on the day you plan to serve.

Ingredients

Beets:

2 small (about 2-inch) red beets

2 golden or striated beets

 

Tofu:

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon  (about 4 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon harissa

1 teaspoon ground sumac

¾  teaspoon smoked salt 

¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

12 ounces (340 grams) extra-firm tofu  

 

Lentils:

½ cup black beluga lentils

2 cups (16 fluid ounces) Roasted Vegetable Stock or store-bought low-sodium vegetable broth

 

Farro:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup farro

3 cups (24 fluid ounces) Roasted Vegetable Stock or store-bought low-sodium vegetable broth

 

Dressing:

¼ cup prepared or homemade mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise

2 roasted poblano peppers  or cubanelle peppers, stemmed and seeded (see Kitchen Tips)   

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon salted capers, drained ( or for non-vegetarians,try 4 large anchovy fillets)

1 bunch fresh-flat leaf parsley, leaves and stems   

¼ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems

Leaves of ¼ bunch fresh mint

¼ bunch packed fresh dill, fronds and stems

4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

Juice and zest of 3 limes  

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

⅔  cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon  salt, optional

 

Vegetables:

8 ounces fresh watercress, washed well and patted dry

3 Persian or 1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced lengthwise into ½-inch pieces, and then into ½-inch by 1½-inch batons

1 cup dried cranberries

1 large watermelon radish, peeled and sliced  lengthwise into ½-inch pieces, and then into ½-inch by 1½-inch batons

2 fresh ripe Hass avocados

1 cup roasted artichoke hearts (see Kitchen Tips), optional

4 ounces Humbolt Fog or any blue-veined goat cheese, crumbled, optional (and not vegan)

1 cup garlic croutons, optional

Instructions

  1. Roast the beets: Preheat the oven to 385°F. Wash the beets well and cut off the stem and the root ends, reserving the leaves for another use (they’re great for a long-cooked pot of greens). Prepare 4 pieces of aluminum foil that are large enough to wrap around the beets easily (about 12 inches square for a big beet) and coat heavily with nonstick olive oil spray or a brush of olive oil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat, place the beets on it and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are soft and a sharp knife pierces the foil packet to the center with ease.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the tofu: In a nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, sugar, harissa, sumac, smoked salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cut the tofu block into ½-inch slices, and then into ½-inch by 2½- to 3-inch batons. Place them into the mixing bowl and gently spoon the marinade over them to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 385°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside.
  4. Prepare the lentils: In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the lentils, stirring to incorporate, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes, until soft but not mushy.
  5. Prepare the farro:  Heat the olive oil in small saucepan set over high heat until it shimmers. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until completely softened and the edges are browned. Add the farro, stir to coat, and cook for 2 minutes, until toasted. Add the stock , stir and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for  about 25 minutes, until the farro is al dente.
  6. Bake the tofu: Carefully remove the tofu from the marinade and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown.
  7. Make the dressing: Combine the mayonnaise, poblanos, nutritional yeast, capers (or anchovies), parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse for about 1 minute, until fully chopped. Add the lime juice and zest and process for 2 to 2½ minutes, until smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil through the feeding tube, until the mixture is smooth and completely blended. Taste and if necessary add salt; this will depend on the saltiness of the anchovies. At this point, you can assemble the salad, or you can refrigerate all the components in separate covered containers for up to 2 days. Just drain the farro and lentils before storing.
  8. Assemble the salad: If you have not done so already (if you are preparing the entire salad in one day), drain the lentils and farro, discarding the liquid. Set aside.
  9. Using gloves to avoid staining your hands, peel the beets and cut into them lengthwise into ½-inch slices, and then into ½-inch by 2-inch batons.
  10. Arrange the watercress across the bottom of a wide salad bowl. “Compose” the salad (see Kitchen Tips): Top with the tofu, cranberries, cucumbers, radishes, beets, the lentils and farro and if you are using them, artichokes, cheese and croutons, arranging them in a striped pattern. Peel and cut the avocado into ½-inch by 1½-inch batons and add to the salad (see Kitchen Tips). Pass the dressing on the side.

Kitchen Tips

  1. The chemicals in chili peppers that cause that wonderful feeling of heat on the tongue can cause a not-so-wonderful feeling if they get into your eyes—and can share the love with other foods on your menu. Avoid touching your face or eyes after cutting and trimming hot chilies- it will hurt. Change work surfaces and knives. Some cooks wear plastic gloves.
  2. In French cuisine, a salade composé, or composed salad, is one in which the ingredients are arranged in separate groupings, rather than being tossed together. Cobb salad is included in this category.
  3. The avocado contains a large round pit that can be awkward to remove. Here is one way that is especially good if you need to slice it: With a sharp knife, cut around the avocado lengthwise (you won’t be able cut straight through because of the pit). With a hand on each half, twist the halves in opposite directions to detach them. The pit will still be firmly attached to one side. Carefully dig the blade (not the tip) of your knife into the pit and twist to remove the pit. Peel and slice the avocado. If you will be holding the avocado for any length of time, acidulate the flesh with a little lemon or lime juice to prevent it from turning brown when exposed to the air.

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