If you’ve never been to eastern Paris’s Charonne area, you’re in for a surprise. This micro-quartier in the 20th arrondissement is home to the famous nightclub La Flèche d’Or and the Philippe Stark-designed über-hip hotel Mama Shelter. And just down the charming, cobblestoned rue St. Blaise, you’ll find Le Casque d’Or, a neighborhood restaurant and wine bar that feels homey and fresh at the same time.
Alice Méchin, head chef and co-owner of Le Casque d’Or, designs the menu around seasonal products, and changes the menu almost daily to reflect the market’s best ingredients. In this salad recipe, Alice combines vibrant and vitamin-packed pickled vegetables with fresh pears and a nutty comté – the result is a delicious sum greater than its parts!
This recipe’s strength lies in its two main preparations: super-tangy quick-pickled vegetables and a foil of flavorful herb oil, which is much more herb than oil, though you’d never guess! For pickling the vegetables, if you want a less “vinegary” brine and softer flavor, use cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
Feel free to play around with the vegetables you use. If you’re short on time, you can just use beets: the total weight for vegetables for this recipe is a little over a pound (about 450g). So use any combination you like: beets and/or carrots of any color, or even peppery black radish.
2 medium raw red, golden, or chioggia beets (5-6 ounces or 165g), washed and peeled
1 tablespoon (15g) butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
For pickling the vegetables:
12 ounces (335g) any combination of other wintery salad vegetables, like carrots or black radish, washed and peeled (I used 2 carrots and ½ black radish)
1¾ cups (about 400ml) water
1¾ cups (about 400ml) white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
½ cup (100g) raw or white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 cup (240ml) water
½ bunch of fresh herb of your choice (basil, dill, cilantro, or chervil), washed and stemmed (about 1 cup of stemmed herbs)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ripe pears
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup (65g) cubed (or cut into batons) aged Comté cheese – 20-24 months is perfect; ask your cheesemonger
several sprigs herbs (the same one used above), for the decor
How to make it:
The beets need a bit of pre-cooking before the quick-pickling stage. Using a food processor’s slicing blade, finely slice the peeled beets. Or, if you have a mandolin slicer, slice the beets to about ⅛-inch (3mm) thick.
1. In a small saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat
2. cups (475ml) water with the butter, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Then add the beet slices, bring back to the boil, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook the beets, covered, about 15-20 minutes – when you poke a sharp knife into a beet slice, it should be slightly resistant or al dente.
3. Drain the beets and let them cool in a medium bowl.
4. Again using a food processor or mandoline, thinly slice the carrots and other vegetables if using. Place each vegetable separately into small-medium bowls.
5. To make the pickling liquid, in a small saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper to boiling. Pour this mixture over each vegetable, including the beets, and marinate in the pickle for 30 minutes.
6. To make the herb oil, bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the herbs, and boil them for about 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer the herbs to a bowl of ice water. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the cooking water to a separate bowl to cool for 1 minute. Remove them and drain them well.
7. Using an immersion blender, purée the herbs with the 3 tablespoons cooled cooking water. While continuing to blend, add the oil and then the salt.
8. To assemble the salad, plate each vegetable as you like (either mixing the vegetables or keeping them separate on the plate). Peel the pears and rub them with a little lemon juice, and cut each pear into lengthwise quarters, sprinkling with lemon juice as you go. Distributing evenly, assemble the pears and the comté cheese as you like – I piled them in the middle, going for a little height on the plate. Then drizzle a teaspoon (or more!) of herb oil on the vegetables, and finally, decorate with the herb sprigs. Voilà!
makes about 4-6 first-course salad portions