Add texture to the Thanksgiving table

November 18, 2009 Rather than toss some greens and dressing together and call it a day, ABC7's Hungry Hound found a local chef who's idea of an autumn salad is more about the texture than anything else.

Coming up with an appropriate salad for Thanksgiving isn't too hard for Randy Zweiban. As Chef at the seasonally-driven Province in the West Loop, he's always picking up items from the weekly Green City Market. But this week, he's especially fond of the honeycrisp apples that are coming in from Michigan.

"We get some beautiful apples, and that's really what the salad is about. All the other little acoutrements are really just added to the salad; the main part of the show is the apples," said Zweiban.

And so he begins by slicing off a few circles from the side of the apple, then stacking them up on top of one another, slicing them again, into thick matchsticks, called a julienne. He sets them aside. He then takes a sturdy jicama, and cuts off both the top and the bottom. With a vegetable peeler, he trims away the tough, inedible outer skin, until all that remains is the white, fibrous interior. Just like the apples, he first slices off a few circles, then stacks them on top of each other, slicing them again into thick matchsticks. He sets those aside.

To assemble the salad, he starts by grabbing a handful or two of the apples, and places them in a large bowl; that's followed by the jicama. Same thing - a handful or two. He then spoons in some chopped Spanish arbequina and coquilla olives, dressed in a bit of sugary simple syrup.

"You could use a nicoise olive if you wanted to, you could use a kalamata olive; any kind of olive that you like the flavor of. Put a little bit of chives just for like that really light hint of onion in the salad. We toast and chop almonds that are in there, and I like the crunch of those, as well as the sort of rich flavor that almonds have...and then we make a vinaigrette that is made from Seedling Farm apple cider," Zweiban said.

He tosses up the salad with the dressing, then plates it by grabbing a mound of it with his hands and setting it onto a large plate. For a final touch, he rings the plate with a bit more of the dressing. Obviously, the julienned fruit and jicama reinforce the fact that this salad is all about texture. But Zweiban says this special cut is not necessarily a requirement.

"If you're more comfortable at home cubing it or cutting it differently or slicing it, it's one of those things that however it works for you, I think it works; it's really all about having those great apples that have a great flavor to them," said Zweiban.

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