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You might not think of salads for dinner much in the fall, but this hearty Chopped Italian Greased Pig Salad is perfect for this time of the year. It’s quick and easy and perfect as a main dish. It’s also great in small portions for a first course. The recipe is adapted from The Essential James Beard Cookbook 450 Recipes That Shaped the Tradition of American Cooking. My Italian version is full of hearty ingredients such as pancetta, cheese, croutons, and onions along with a tomato and basil dressing using California Olive Ranch Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Any cookbook lovers out there?? I probably have hundreds of cookbooks from friends, family, cook-offs I’ve attended, etc. I have a huge book shelf and closet full of them and my husband has told me to stop getting more. I have stopped for the most part except for those I find exceptionally useful or unique. I love using cookbooks for inspiration more than trying each recipe exactly how printed.
So when I was approached about reviewing The Essential James Beard Cookbook which was recently released, I was instantly intrigued. I’ve always known about James Beard, but have to admit that I never really knew ALOT about him. You may be familiar with the James Beard Foundation including the James Beard awards and scholarships, but you may not realize that James Beard himself was a very influential chef and teacher starting in the 1950’s before Julia Child was really on the “scene”.
The Essential James Beard Cookbook includes 400+ recipes that have been updated and still relevant for today. An incredible reference cookbook with recipes spanning from basics and classics such as angel food cake, chicken tetrazzini, pot roast, caesar salad, and clam chowder to more nontraditional and ethnic influenced recipes such as avgolemono, Peruvian eggs, and Kreplach.
There are recipes for every course from cocktails to desserts. None of the recipes seem overly fussy or have long lists of ingredients or extensive directions which is perfect for my short attention span. :) I found myself intrigued by the tips and stories, and already thinking about how I could put my personal touches on so many of the recipes. If you have some holiday shopping to do, I would definitely suggest checking the book out for the foodies in your life! Even though I have hundreds of cookbooks I think this will be one that I will be referring back to. It’s a great reference cookbook for the novice cook to professional chefs.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with Chef Linton Hopkins, the recipient of the 2012 James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast”. Chef Hopkins is also the executive chef and owner of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, and has also expanded his operations to include Holeman & Finch Public House, H&F Bread Co, and H&F Bottle Shop. He also founded the Peachtree Road Farmers Market with his wife and is member of many local food related groups. I’d say he’s definitely inspirational and influential in his own right! I can’t wait to get down to Atlanta sometime to try out all his places!
I spoke to Chef Hopkins to get a different perspective on James Beard. Since he’s a professional chef (and I’m not…) I wanted to get his take on if and how James Beard influenced him as a chef. Lucky for me, Chef Hopkins is a big fan of James Beard and has collected many of his cookbooks over the year. I was interested to hear how for him, it is more about the thinking behind the recipes and the cooking and to see how we got here and where we are today. He also felt that James Beard’s recipes and advice are timeless for everyone, not just professional chefs. I have to agree and it makes me feel so much better about my own cookbook addiction. It’s not always about looking at a recipe so literally, but about the inspiration and story behind it and how it has evolved and how you can make it your own. Chef Hopkins has even adapted some of James Beard’s recipes in his restaurants.
Ironically both Chef Hopkins and myself were drawn to the Greased Pig Salad recipe (included in the The Essential James Beard Cookbook). How can you really resist the name “Greased Pig Salad”??? The salad is a twist on a BLT sandwich but in salad form with fresh lettuce, tomato, bacon and homemade mayonnaise. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly tomato season but I thought the salad would be the perfect recipe to adapt for fall using Italian ingredients and turning the salad into a chopped version. I asked Chef Hopkins how he would adapt the recipe and the first thing that came to his mind was to adapt it similar to a frisée lardon salad using such things as frisée and pickled red onions as well as a homemade dressing with homemade vinegars. Sounds delicious doesn’t it?
I also received some California Olive Ranch olive oils to try out including the everyday and arbequina extra virgin olive oils. I knew right away that the fruity and flavorful arbequina would be perfect for my salad. Since I was using extra-virgin olive oil I had to change the “mayo” in the original recipe to more of a dressing. Without thinking, I tried making homemade mayonnaise with the extra-virgin olive oil and quickly learned that extra-virgin olive oil is too acidic and the egg curdled which was clearly stated in the book and I should have known, but I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t want to give up the extra virgin olive oil in the dressing so instead gave up the egg and all was perfect!
I also bought some thick slices of pancetta that I chopped and fried until crispy. You could substitute your favorite bacon if you’d like.
You could use store-bought croutons but I decided to make my own with some leftover Garlic Red Mashed Potato Focaccia I had. These croutons were incredible!!! You could use any good quality bread. Cut the bread into cubes. Drain off the pancetta fat (reserving just a little in the pan) then toast the bread cubes over medium-high heat until crispy. Season with a little salt and pepper. Make extra, because you’ll probably be snacking on them!
Combine the chopped lettuce with a little dressing then place on serving dishes. Top with the other salad ingredients pancetta, cheese, croutons, and red onion and you have yourself a quick and hearty salad.
You could add some of your favorite veggies to the Chopped Italian Greased Pig Salad too if you’d like.
Hope you have the opportunity to enjoy some of James Beard’s recipes and inspiration!
Hope you enjoy!
Chopped Italian Greased Pig Salad
Italian Tomato Dressing:
- 1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (packed in oil)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove
- 3/4 cup California Olive Ranch Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Romaine lettuce chopped
- Pancetta chopped & cooked
- Provolone cheese cubed
- Red onion chopped
- Croutons homemade (or store-bought)
- Place sundried tomatoes, basil, vinegar, salt, pepper, dijon mustard, and garlic in food processor. Process until nearly smooth and tomatoes are finely chopped. Slowly add in olive oil while food processor is running until incorporated.
- Mix together lettuce and desired amount of dressing. Place lettuce on serving dishes or bowls. Top with pancetta, provolone, red onion, and croutons.
SNAPPY TIPS: Make homemade croutons after you fry your pancetta/bacon. Remove excess oil, then toast bread cubes right in pan. Season with salt/pepper.
SNAPPY SUBSTITUTIONS: Substitute your favorite bacon and cheese if desired.
Other salad recipes you may enjoy:
- Fall Harvest Spinach Salad – Eating Bird Food
- Roasted Butternut Squash Salad – Kitchenette
- Quinoa Salad with Apple, Chickpeas, Toasted Almonds – Cookin’ Canuck
Disclosure: I received a copy of the cookbook and olive oil to review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.