Friday, November 2, 2012

Mandoline Your Way to a Scrumptious and Elegant Broccolini Salad



Our neighbor Maureen was in our kitchen one day as I was preparing dinner.  As I gathered together components for a Thomas Keller broccolini salad, I saw her looking at my thinly shaved mushroom and red onion with interest.  She mused, more to herself than to me or Will, “Now, that’s a good idea…”  That was when I realized that she was fascinated by the fact that we actually used our mandoline.  And she’s right to be fascinated.

Many years ago, in the first flush of being able to afford specialty items for the kitchen, we purchased our first mandoline.  (Yes, we have more than one…)  It was a stainless steel French-made mandoline, a brand I saw a TV chef using for one of her shows.  Though merely a piece of kitchen equipment, its packaging was reminiscent of an assassination film—with a hard black plastic case that resembled a rifle carrier more than something that was supposed to slice cucumbers. 


Because of the super sharp blade and the jutting spikes intended for julienning, this mandoline announced itself as a serious piece of machinery, something that required a black plastic hand-protector to use.  But that was the whole problem.  We couldn’t really use this mandoline!  Partly, it was our fault for trying to julienne sweet potatoes on our first attempt.  Perhaps the sweet potato’s gnarled rooty texture didn’t let the Miu shine.  It was hard going to yield even a few good strips, and then we hand-cut the rest of the sweet potato after the awkward hand-protector kept slipping out of our hands—and, yes, exposing those same hands to those medieval torture (sorry, julienning) spikes.


So the mandoline sat in its mysterious black case, on the top shelf in the kitchen where we relegate all items we will never really use but are afraid to throw out or donate—lest we later regret our rashness.  Then I surfed the web to see if I could find a mandoline we could actually use.  I found on Amazon an inexpensive but very well rated simple—no julienning—Kyocera with a ceramic blade.  As I was checking out the reviews, I noticed that very helpful (“Frequently purchased together”) note that alerted me to yet another product I could consider.  It was a “cut-protection glove.”  Reading reviews for the glove, I realized that we were not the only ones fearful of making ground meat out of our hands by using mandolines.  I ordered both and never looked back.


Will is actually even more enamored of the glove than he is of the mandoline since it was the fear factor that kept him away from using our expensive Miu.  We still have the stainless steel contraption, but I’m not sure when we will decide that we will get the step-ladder out to get it down from the top shelf.  After all, the Kyocera is so easy to use, and so light.  With its thin profile, it can even fit in one of the sliding drawers in the kitchen and not take up too much space.  It does a lovely job of cutting through delicate produce like a mushroom and still ensure beautiful and whole, super-thin slices.


If you have a mandoline, this Thomas Keller salad from his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook can be made in no time.  I slightly modify the original recipe to use items we usually have around, and you are welcome to change as you see fit.  All the ingredients you need are bold-faced in this streamlined recipe.

Ad Hoc Broccolini Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

Step 1: Blanche the broccolini
After bringing a pot of salted water to a boil, throw in 1 lb of trimmed broccolini and cook for 4-5 minutes (no longer).  Remove, drain, and place in an ice bath.  Then drain again and place on a plate.

Step 2: Mandoline mushrooms and onion
Trim 2 large cremini or white mushrooms and then mandoline into thin slices.  Mandoline ½ a small red onion.  Place in separate small bowls.

Step 3: Make the dressing
Combine 2 T extra virgin olive oil, 2 T walnut oil, and 2 T sherry vinegar.  Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste, and whisk again.

Step 4: Dress everything
Drizzle a bit of the dressing over each of the plates or bowls containing broccolini, mushrooms, and onions.  Place broccolini on the bottom of a wide plate, then pile the dressed mushrooms and onions in a pile.  In a small bowl, place a fresh and very soft buffalo mozzarella or a burrata, cut a small cross on top of the cheese with a sharp paring knife, and then drizzle 1 T extra virgin olive oil on top and around the cheese.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.  Place a few castelvetrano olives on top of the salad.


Enjoy!


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