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How chef Seamus Mullen makes spring salads

Marnely Rodriguez-Murray is the author of the food blog Cooking with Books. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, she has worked as an overnight bread baker in Colorado and a chocolate maker in Virginia. She currently resides ...

Tips from an award-winning chef

Whether you're craving fresh salads or looking for new ideas to incorporate into your menu, SheKnows has joined forces with chef Seamus Mullen to bring you new, crisp ideas.
Seamus Mullen

Tips from an award-winning chef

Whether you're craving fresh salads or looking for new ideas to incorporate into your menu, SheKnows has joined forces with chef Seamus Mullen to bring you new, crisp ideas.

Photo credit: Robin Marchant/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

To celebrate the arrival of spring, we have chef Seamus Mullen, an award-winning New York chef, restaurateur and cookbook author known for his inventive yet approachable modern Spanish cuisine, sharing his favorite salad techniques as well as what he thinks are upcoming trends for the spring/summer season.

SheKnows: What would you predict will be big spring/summer trends in food?

Seamus Mullen: I think we're going to see more and more chefs focusing on the wellness sector. People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance food plays in our health.

SK: Let's talk salads: What makes a great salad?

SM:

  • Quality of ingredients: The foundation of any great salad is certainly high-quality ingredients. Because you're doing very little, if anything, to manipulate the ingredients, you have to make sure your ingredients are the very best quality you can find.
  • It's not just greens. Also, salads don't always have to be based on greens — tossing stuff on top of mixed greens gets old after awhile. Embrace all the amazing different types of vegetables that are out there — root vegetables, squash, legumes.
  • Adding flavor: Bring out flavor with fresh herbs or try grating a little bit of horseradish to give it an unexpected pop.
  • Don't forget to add texture: You don't want all the beautiful flavors you've developed to get lost. I like to make sure I have different textures at play in one salad; for example, balancing the rich creaminess from a sheep's milk cheese with the dense, nutty crunch of almonds.

SK: We know specific salads go with specific dressings. Would you care to share how you create salad recipes and how you know to pair a salad with a dressing?

SM: Unless you're making a really specific salad, like a Caesar salad, there shouldn't be any hard and fast rules as to how you decide to dress your salad. I look at what my salad is composed of and go from there — If my salad is going to be made with heartier greens like baby kale, mustard greens or dandelion greens, I like to make sure the dressing is somewhat creamy to balance out the heartiness. If I'm having a light tomato salad in the summer, the dressing might be as straightforward and simple as a drizzle of flavorful olive oil, a shot of good vinegar and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

SK: Both your restaurants, Tertulia and El Colmado, focus on small portions, big flavors. How can home cooks bring the tapas experience when hosting their own dinner party?

SM: Keep it simple. Even though tapas are small bites, which make them ideal for a party, what many home cooks don't realize is that it actually can require a lot more prep time to make all those individual items. If I'm entertaining at home, I don't have a team of cooks helping me prep 10 different things. I like to make larger things like coca (Spanish flatbread) or tortilla española, that I can then slice or cut into bite-size pieces. Adding a crunch factor with toasted nuts or crispy bacon can ratchet the flavors up and give small dishes big flavor.

SK: We love your thoughts on healing with food. What are your top five favorite healing ingredients to cook with?

SM: Grass-fed butter, avocados, almonds, coconut oil and mushrooms.

Sugar snap pea salad recipe

Sugar snap pea salad recipe

Photo credit: California Almonds

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup whole natural almonds
  • 1 pound fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes (approximately 8-10)
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • A few leaves fresh peppermint
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
  • Handful edible flowers, such as pea blossoms or nasturtiums

Directions:

  1. Roughly chop the almonds and toast, if desired. (See note below.) Thinly slice the radishes into coin shapes or half-moons. Set aside.
  2. With a sharp knife, trim the tips of the sugar snap peas on both ends, remove the strings if they bother you and cut in half on the diagonal. Blanch the peas in boiling water for no more than 30 seconds; remove from boiling water and shock in ice water until cold. Drain well.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the almonds, peas, radishes, cheese and peppermint. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper and garnish of edible flowers.

NOTE

Roasting almonds brings out their intense nutty flavor. Simply spread on a baking sheet and pop into a 350 degree F oven or toaster oven for 7-10 minutes; chopping the almonds first can help this process go faster. To toast sliced or slivered almonds, heat a skillet to medium-high and add almonds; cook, tossing regularly to prevent burning, for 4-5 minutes or until highly aromatic. Allow almonds to cool before adding to the salad.

More on salads

Copycat Whole Foods California quinoa salad
Summer nectarine salad with fresh basil dressing
Raw kale and grapefruit salad recipe

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