This post may either bring us closer or cause some unsubscribes, although I hope it doesn’t do the latter. Because it’s a post about a salad, but it’s also a post about a very polarizing public figure.
Don’t go away; let’s just sit down and talk about this for a few minutes. She’s been getting a borderline crazy amount of flak over her new cookbook, It’s All Good: Easy Recipes that Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. At first, a few people popped up with some mean little reviews, but now it’s everywhere; and you know what? It’s gotten pretty nasty. I’m not a huge fan of that, even when I don’t particularly like someone, especially because there’s really no call for it. This is not the latest Thomas Keller cookbook masterpiece; nor does it claim in any way to be. Do I think Gwyneth is a little crazy? She sure is, but I think lots of us are a wee bit off the deep end with things we like to do; we’re just not all famous, so no one hounds us about why we’re doing a juice diet for a few days or why we tried Bikram yoga. Because hey, guess what? Those things were considered to be tremendously weird at one time, also.
It is interesting to note that the journalists who have openly hated on this book seem to have a big case of only seeing what they want to see. As I said before, this book isn’t Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But neither are books from Rachel Ray or Ina Garten, and I don’t see them getting panned by everyone on the planet. There are no recipes for cassoulet in here; rather, there are recipes for how to boil and egg and how to make avocado toast (by the way, these are the easiest found in the book; many of the other recipes are just as involved as those you would find in other cookbooks.) Are we that snobby as a food culture to think every single person on this planet knows how to do those things? My sister called me a few years ago to find out how, yes, to boil an egg. She was, at the time, in her late twenties. In the past few years, she’s asked me to show her how to make simple salads, avocado ranch sauces, and so on; all easy things to do. My sister is not daft; in fact, she’s very smart, she just simply has never done those things before, and didn’t know where to start. I don’t dismiss cookbooks with super-simple recipes as pointless, because although I may know how to put together things that are easy, and maybe you do too, not everyone does. What is so awful about putting things like that between two covers?
Some say that putting this book out is irresponsible and “can cause confusion” about dieting by suggesting you spend gobs of money on a specific type of honey, or egg, or corn, all the while making you believe that this diet is the only way to move forward. Maybe I give the human race more credit than is warranted, but I bet we can all figure out ways to spend less money on like products to make these recipes with. Somehow I was able to determine that buying Ghirardelli chocolate was an acceptable and affordable alternative to the Guittard or Scharffen Berger chocolate nearly every one of my critically acclaimed cookbooks proclaim I must use. Furthermore, I’m not seeing where she suggests that this is the only way to eat ever again for the rest of your life. Forgive me, but I think books for the Atkins diet or Fit For Life seem to suggest this in a much more concrete way than this book does. With, might I add (at least in the case of the Atkins diet) some pretty epic side effects if it’s done long-term.
Another thing: in the current culture of “something, something, quinoa” we all live in, why do we hate a book which contains lots of whole-food-based, good-for-your-body ideas? There are a multitude of bloggers who exclusively make foods like this, and no one criticizes them. Stacy over at Every Little Thing made a salad the other day using nothing but fresh citrus, some pomegranate arils, a wee bit of cheese and some chopped nuts. I think it’s beautiful in its simplicity and freshness, and no one is raking her over the coals for it (as well they shouldn’t.) Williams Sonoma did a big push for healthy living in January with their “30 Days of Juices” collection, and I’ve had some good results using some of their recipes to create my own juices. Did I need a recipe? One could argue that I did, because I didn’t know the first thing about juicing or what tasted good together. It’s been very helpful. So is it that glossies and websites are fine promoting this, but it doesn’t make for a proper cookbook? If that’s the case, it’s too bad, because I think it’s nice to have a hardcover, more permanent reference in my library.
And finally, the biggest thing critics keep missing (and I tend to think it’s on purpose); by her own words, it’s a book that’s informational, about a diet her doctor put her on, ideally done for a few weeks at a time. She says she does it a few times per year. No one bother to mention that tidbit in their critical and objective review? Interesting, because the information isn’t difficult to find; it’s in several interviews she’s done. She says that eating like that all the time is “a sacrifice that I’m not willing to make.” So this isn’t how she eats all the time, but rather how she eats when she wants to restart her body. Have any of you like, completely over-sugared yourself say, over the holidays and then gone on an all-vegetable diet, or raw diet, or cut out sugar for a few weeks, or juiced? That’s basically what this book is about, only it’s a book and not just you guessing at things.
Confession time, although I hesitate to even call it that, because I know I’ve said things like this before. I bake sweet things. I make them for the blog, I make them for family gatherings, I make them all the time. Mr. Table came home one night to two cakes, three batches of cookies, and a cobbler once, and it wasn’t even Christmas. I try to keep my taste-testing to a minimum, but admittedly, it’s difficult. I feel gross every so often. I try to balance it out by eating very healthy meals, but that’s hard too, because eating healthy involves planning, prepping and time. Add freelance assignments and a two-year-old to the mix, and you get off track. I do “diets” like this regularly – not full-on juice cleanses, but menus that cut out sugar, meat, wheat, etc. because it perks me back up to my normal level of energy. I like having menu ideas for reference, because I know my way around a kitchen, but I can’t always come up with these types of recipes on my own; I need and am grateful for the help magazines and books can provide. I like eating like this because I really do feel recharged and energized; I am able to meet the demands of my day, and my sugar intake isn’t skewed. Which, in my opinion, makes the food I create for this blog better, because you’re not getting any bias from the massive sugar tolerance I’ve built up.
My point: I almost didn’t write this post because I felt like maybe I didn’t want to be in the minority. It’s silly, really, because I’m an adult, and peer pressure shouldn’t matter to me (and most of the time doesn’t matter to me.) So here’s what I’m thinking: Maybe I need to not care what other food writers think. Maybe I need to just make sure for myself that I know the whole story before making a judgement call (because at first, I was pretty quick to judge). Is this book for everyone? Absolutely not. In fact, there’s no reason to own it if you’re not interested in eating this way. I may or may not get the book, but I will – like every other cookbook – be testing it out at the library and deciding for myself. But I won’t feel embarrassed about it if I do. Just saying; something to think about. One girl’s opinion.
Okay, it’s safe now: on to the salad! I was all over that soapbox today. Are we good? I hope our relationship remains intact.
This salad, in a way, inspired this post because I found it on GOOP: Gwyneth’s website, which I very much enjoy. Say what you will about her (and I say things too, I’m not her biggest fan), but GOOP has some pretty great stuff on there; there’s travel, food, all sorts of things. Visually and organizationally, it may be one of my favorite sites of all time. This salad is one I saw a little while back, and it looked so simple and colorful that I thought it would make a nice addition to Easter brunch this year.
Indeed, it did. Normal greens make for fantastic salads, don’t get me wrong, but this mix things really gets the flavor going, even before you add anything else. Arugula, radicchio, and endive have flavors all their own, so you sort of get a different combination of tastes in each bite. All you do is chop some things up, peel a pear over it; instant elegant salad. I added some fresh shaved Parmesan for bite, because it generally works well for crowds, but on my own, I’ll experiment with some gorgonzola or Maytag, or maybe some feta or goat cheese. You could throw other things in here, too; the original recipe calls for thinly sliced roasted kabocha squash, but that felt too wintry for right now. You could add some grapes, or maybe a little pomegranate action, or maybe some chilled fresh spring peas (which are always a nice addition to salads, in my opinion.)
It all comes together with your choice of vinaigrettes: I made a very straightforward balsamic vinaigrette for it, but I liked it better with a white wine/dill vinaigrette I had made to serve with those tortellini skewers, so I’ll include the recipe for that one here.
So there you go; I had so many thoughts on Gwyneth this time! I promise that won’t happen regularly. I mean, it may happen again though; who knows.
Peeled Pear + Winter Greens Salad with Dill Vinaigrette
for the salad:
- 1 small head of radicchio, sliced
- 2-3 heads endive, sliced thinly
- 2-3 handfuls of arugula or baby arugula (whatever you prefer)
- 1 pear, firm, cored
- 3-4 ounces fresh Parmesan (optional, but either to shred, peel, or chunk)
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
for the vinaigrette:
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used a mild one for this)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
make the vinaigrette:
whisk together vinegar, dill, mustard, garlic, sugar, and lemon juice until well-blended. With your whisk in motion, slowly drizzle in the olive oil into the mixture. Continue whisking, as briskly as possible, until the olive oil has emulsified and your dressing is homogenous. Season with sea salt and ground pepper and refrigerate for 1 hour or so to meld the flavors together.
make the salad:
place radicchio, endive, and arugula in a large, shallow bowl and use your hands to toss together. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the pear in thin slices over top your lettuces. Do the same with your Parmesan (either peel a la pear peels for visual continuity, or grate, or use a pointed, thin knife to chunk small pieces of the block and throw over top). Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and serve alongside the dill vinaigrette.
Serves 4 for a light lunch salad and 8-10 as a side salad.