Lauren Herman, chef de cuisine at A.O.C. in Los Angeles, California, comes by her love of the farmers' market honestly. As a born-and-raised Angeleno who has spent the last four years working for A.O.C.'s chef-owner, Suzanne Goin, weekly trips to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market are a way of life.
When she shops the farmers' market for the restaurant, she also buys ingredients for herself and her partner, Christina Olufson, who is the pastry chef at A.O.C. and its sister restaurants, Lucques and Tavern. When asked about her pantry staples, Herman does not list mainstays like peanut butter or fancy olive oil, but instead rattles off a laundry list of fruits and vegetables.
Herman makes a concerted effort to cook at home on her nights off, preparing rustic, seasonal dishes. For our Sous Chef Series, she prepared a peerless variation of the now-classic beet-and-goat-cheese salad.
Beet and Arugula Salad with La Tur Cheese, Squash Blossoms and Honey
Recipe adapted from Lauren Herman, A.O.C., Los Angeles
Yield: Serves 4
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 servings
9 small beets (preferably a mix of red, pink and golden), trimmed
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2¼ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup pine nuts
1 small fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced lengthwise through the core into thin, fanned pieces
4 cups arugula
4 squash blossoms, roughly torn and stamens discarded (optional)
1 medium shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 wheel La Tur cheese (or Robiola), cut into 16 ¼-inch wedges
½ medium shallot, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ orange
1½ teaspoons whole coriander seeds
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Roast the beets: Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large baking dish, toss the beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the thyme and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, crimping it around the edges to form a tight seal. Roast in the oven until a paring knife easily slips into the center of one of the larger beets, 40 to 50 minutes. Uncover and set aside to cool slightly. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them (wearing gloves to protect your hands from staining) and slice into 1-inch wedges. Set aside.
2. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and toast the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
3. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the chopped shallot with the lemon and orange juices and set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the coriander seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until the seeds are golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a spice grinder and pulse until roughly ground (or crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle). Add the coriander to the shallot mixture and whisk in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Place the fennel in a large bowl and add the arugula, squash blossoms, sliced shallot and roasted beet wedges. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Arrange on 4 plates and tuck 4 pieces of cheese into each salad. Sprinkle each serving with the toasted pine nuts and drizzle with abbamele. Serve.