The Chef: Katianna Hong
Her Restaurant: The Charter Oak, in St. Helena, Calif.
What She’s Known For: Mastering live-fire cooking and maximizing California’s bounty. Translating her Michelin-star-studded training into accessible, full-flavored dishes.
FOR A SNAPSHOT of Napa at this time of year, look no further than this salad. “It’s spring from our garden,” said chef Katianna Hong, who picks her produce within walking distance of the kitchen door at the Charter Oak, in St. Helena, Calif.
At the restaurant, the recipe evolves with the seasons. “We tend to use a few lettuce varieties and something more substantial,” said Ms. Hong. In this late-spring version, her fourth Slow Food Fast contribution, the “something more substantial” comes from poached peas and thinly sliced fennel, radishes, celery and rhubarb. Avocado, crumbled queso fresco and an herby dressing bolstered with mayo and more peas, puréed until creamy, lend a little richness.
If you don’t happen to have a garden outside your own kitchen as pristine and productive as the one Ms. Hong has at her disposal, no worries: This recipe truly is endlessly adaptable. “Just go to your grocery store and get what looks best,” the chef said. What you see below is a formula for a balanced bowl; define the different factors depending on what’s available where you are. Feel free to use just one lettuce variety, so long at it’s tender and sturdy. If you can’t find rhubarb, up the amount of celery or fennel. And if your basil is bruised or picked over, use more cilantro or mint instead. In short, swap out ingredients as needed to use what’s most appealing at the market at this very minute.
Green Salad With Peas, Fennel, Avocado and Queso Fresco
Total Time: 30 minutes Serves: 4
- 2 cloves garlic
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 1 cup mint leaves, roughly torn
- 2½ cups poached peas
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1 cup basil
- ½ cup olive oil, plus more to drizzle
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Kosher salt
- 6 cups butter lettuce and/or Little Gem lettuce
- 2 pale-green stalks celery, thinly sliced on the bias
- ½ cup thinly sliced or shaved rhubarb
- 2 large avocados, diced
- 3 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 head fennel, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1. Make vinaigrette: In a food processor, combine garlic, half the lemon juice, half the zest, half the mint, 1 cup peas, half the cilantro, half the basil, olive oil, vinegar and mayo. Pulse to combine. Once smooth and uniform, season with salt and more lemon juice and zest to taste.
2. Make salad: In a large bowl combine lettuce, remaining herbs, celery, rhubarb, avocado, radishes, fennel and queso fresco. Dress with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Season with more lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil and salt to taste.