CommitmentNow.com: For those of us who consider a salad to be iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice and croutons covered with ranch dressing, your book is a delightful wake up call! With recipes such as “Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Parsley and Spring Onions,” “Grilled Sausage Salad with Quick Apple Compote and Watercress,” and “Deconstructed Club Sandwich Salad with Purple Potato Chips,” your latest book, Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season, brings salads to a whole new level! How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Patricia Wells: Actually, the title of the book comes from the Brasserie Lipp menu in Paris, where in bold red letters, in English, it is noted NO SALAD AS A MEAL. This is to stop someone from saying “I’ll just have a green salad.” I walk past the restaurant almost every day and have for years and thought, why not turn the statement into Salad As A Meal. I have been cooking this way for years, mixing crab and avocado and a light dressing. Or taking all the summer garden vegetables and transforming them into a stacked salad of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, goat cheese and basil. It just seemed to make sense to turn the idea into a book.
CommitmentNow.com: What inspired the recipes in Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season?
Patricia: The markets in Paris and my garden in Provence are the main inspirations. I also get a lot of ideas from restaurants. Almost too many! My testing lists are always very long!
CommitmentNow.com: Some of the recipes in Salad as a Meal include meat, others have grains or shellfish; some are warm, others are chilled. How would you define a salad?
Patricia: A salad does not have to include greens. There are grain salads, pasta salads, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry salads, and of course all vegetable salads. I tried to include a mix of the classics – so there is a Salade Nicoise, a classic Cobb and Caesar. I put many egg dishes, such as a zucchini blossom and goat cheese frittata, since I put zucchini blossoms in the salad category. I also included many sides, such as breads and soups to round out the meal.
CommitmentNow.com: What is the key to making a good salad?
Patricia: As with ALL cooking, sterling, super-fresh ingredients. Otherwise, don’t bother.
CommitmentNow.com: You are now living in France. What can we learn from how the French prepare a salad?
Patricia: Aside from fresh, seasonal ingredients, the great trick is learned from the French is what they call “fatiguer la salade,” mean tossing it with just enough dressing to coat and moisten the ingredients but not drown it in dressing. My good friend in Provence insists on tossing it 33 times. Try it! It works!
CommitmentNow.com: You are a journalist, author and teacher who runs a popular cooking school in Paris and Provence. You have written twelve cook books and have won the James Beard Award three times! The French government has recognized your contribution to French culture! When did your interest in food begin?
Patricia: I like to joke that I ate before I wrote so the food came before the writing! My mother, of Italian ancestry, was a great home cook. The cookie jar was always full, she made fabulous pastas and pizzas, cakes and pies and canned fruits all summer long. So I just grew up believing that I would always have good food in front of me. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a journalist and one thing let to another and I turned to food as my subject. I have never regretted, never looked back.
CommitmentNow.com: Where can we learn more about you, your books and your recipes?
Patricia: Visit www.PatriciaWells.com
Patricia Wells is a journalist, author, and teacher who runs a popular cooking school—At Home with Patricia Wells—in Paris and Provence. Salad As A Meal is her twelfth book. She won the James Beard Award for The Provence Cookbook, Patricia Wells at Home in Provence, and Simply French. Also nominated for Beard Awards were Vegetable Harvest and The Paris Cookbook. With her husband, Walter, she is also the author of We've Always Had Paris . . . and Provence. The French government has honored her as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, recognizing her contribution to French culture. A former New York Times reporter, she is the only foreigner and only woman to serve as restaurant critic for a major French publication, L'Express. For more than twenty-five years she was the global restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune.