05 May 2013

Swiss Market Salad with Tarragon-Buttermilk Dressing

In honor of the spring that I hope most of you are enjoying by now, I am dedicating the month of May to recipes inspired by the lightness and simplicity of the season. The focus will be on minimal ingredients, quick cooking, and a lighter, fresher take on favorites such as salads, soups, weekday breakfast, and dessert.

Fresh, local produce is so flavorful that it doesn't need much embellishment to be enjoyed. This raw shredded salad makes the most of the produce, allowing the natural flavors and colors to shine through. I really love the idea of shredding up several different vegetables, pouring over a dressing, and in minutes having a very substantial, but unique salad on the table. It's a fun take on the usual lettuce base and it's quite adaptable. Use whatever crunchy vegetables are your favorite or that look good at the market. Radishes, carrots, and corn are great alternative options as is cucumber (the latter is better sliced or shredded separately and squeezed to release excess water before adding to the salad). Unlike lettuce-based salads, leftovers hold up beautifully for a day or two. And I'm thinking just maybe the more color and crunch in the salad, the more enticing it will be to even the smallest of eaters around the table.

We have been in Switzerland for almost a year, and I have yet to mention anything about Swiss cuisine. The thing is, we don't really eat Swiss food. And based on the wide range of products from other cuisines available at the market, I question how much the Swiss themselves eat the typical Swiss dishes on a regular basis. Rosti, cheese fondue, raclette, spaetzle, and cervelat sausages don't translate very well to everyday eating. However, there is one dish (besides bircher muesli), when done well I really enjoy, and it is usually offered at various restaurants regardless of the cuisine. It is called Gemischter Salat, and it is what inspired the salad I am sharing today. Literally translated as mixed salad, it's really an assortment of several different marinated salads, often consisting of corn, beets, carrots, and cucumber. Here is one we had in Lucerne.

The marinade is usually a crème fraiche or mayonnaise base with a healthy addition of vinegar to cut through the creaminess along with fresh herbs such as tarragon or dill. The acid and cream is a very nice pairing, and one I try to maintain using buttermilk as the base instead. And fresh herbs may seem minor but they add a lot in flavor.

You can separate the vegetables on the plate as they do here, or they can be tossed together. I usually toss mine together, but the beets turn the whole salad pink which didn't make for a very pretty picture! Either way, I hope this provides an easy way for you to enjoy the season's best. 

Swiss Market Salad with Tarragon-Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 4 as a side salad

Notes: Unlike the thick and rich buttermilk in the US, buttermilk in Switzerland is as thin as milk. To thicken the dressing a touch I add a spoonful of yogurt, but if you're using thick buttermilk, the yogurt is not necessary.

1 medium, firm zucchini
1 medium fennel bulb
1 small beet, peeled

1/4 cup/60 ml buttermilk
1 spoonful plain, natural yogurt (optional)
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt + additional to add at the end
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped tarragon (~ 1 small bunch)

Shred the vegetables using the shredder attachment  of a food processor or the largest holes of a box grater. Alternatively, the zucchini and fennel can be sliced using the slicing attachment of a food processor or a mandolin, but the beet (assuming it is not the very small variety) is best shredded.

In the bottom of a large bowl, mix all ingredients for the dressing. Add the shredded vegetables to the dressing and stir to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle fennel fronds on top if desired, and serve.

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