Goodbye parsnips. See ya later turnips and rutabagas and all you various and sundry squash. Beets and Brussels sprouts? We love you but familiarity breeds contempt. Give us some delicate pea shoots, green asparagus pushing up from the earth, vitamin-rich artichokes and a toss of fiddlehead ferns or a morel or two to make us giddy for these lovely spring salads.
Lockwood Restaurant & Bar
17 E. Monroe St.
Chicago, IL 60603
Lockwood, located in the venerable Palmer House Hilton, is helmed by Chef Joseph Rose who loves being green. “The produce I look for in spring is most of the green stuff: peas, asparagus (white ones, too), ramps, fiddlehead ferns, pea tendrils. Coming from the fall and winter, I look for things that are a lot lighter and have some color, because I am sick of brown food.” Ain’t we all, chef? His favorite spring salad on the menu is the new pea tendril and mache lettuce with radishes, cucumbers, mixed tossed seeds and ginger vinaigrette. “It is a simple light salad with different textures and flavors, but not overwhelming,” he explains.
Shaw’s Crab House
21 E. Hubbard St.
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Chef Peter Balodimas at Shaw’s Crab House offer a revelatory King crab salad dotted with pea tendrils, local potatoes, sprightly radish and a mild spring garlic Green Goddess dressing. “The natural sweetness of our King crab is enhanced with the sweet grass notes of pea tendrils,” he explains, and spring radish adds a textural element and “soft peppery nuances.” The local fingerlings are confit with tarragon, olive oil and lemon zest, adding a nice rich mouth feel mimicking the classic clarified butter that is traditionally served with King crab. “The salad is rounded out with a spring garlic Green Goddess, which adds fat from avocado, natural salinity from anchovies and acid from lemons and champagne vinegar.”
3868 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613
Bob Bagley, Chef de Cuisine of sola, a Contemporary American restaurant with Hawaiian influences, gets giddy when he hears farmers utter the word “ramps.” This brings us to his ramp salad. Ramp tops, arugula, Togarashi spiced pecans, candy onion and ginger vinaigrette lights up a mouth and heart set on spring. Chef says, “The first ramp I taste every spring excites me because not long after that we have beautiful asparagus, green garlic, berries, greens, etc. There is so much to work with and I don’t have to keep doing root veggies and squash!” Another satisfying spring toss is his asparagus salad, a melange of mustard greens, black radish, asparagus, shallot, goat cheese and yuzu vinaigrette.
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A great salad at a Mexican place? Indeed, if it’s on Takito Kitchen’s menu – a modern take on Mexican cuisine with a focus on artisanal tacos. Takito Chef/Partner David Dworshak likes to cook seasonally and support local farmers and producers like Urban Till, Maple Creek Farms and Three Sisters Garden, so there’s that in terms of fantastic ingredients. His hearts of palm salad is the epitome of refreshing with jicama escabeche, avocado, Urban Till arugula, lime vinaigrette and sunflower seeds. “This dish is on the menu year round,” says Chef, “but come spring, I will add pickled ramps to it. The baby arugula in the salad is a fresh and vibrant ingredient that embodies spring.”
2300 N. Lincoln Park W.
Chicago, IL 60614
Chef Matthew Kirkley collects out-of-print cookbooks from the 70s and 80s, reviews recipes and turns them inside out with his nouvelle cuisine approach. One of those transformations is salade gourmande, which is a traditional dish of cured and poached meats, served on greens with a vinaigrette, basically the French version of a chef’s salad. He lines a pain de mie tuile with foie gras, mojama and haricots verts then dresses with frisée, mâche and herbs accented by truffle vinaigrette. The salad is finished with Périgord black truffle and Parmesan. Ecstasy by salad ensues.
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Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.