Herbal salad with hazelnuts
This salad is very quick and easy to make, particularly if you’re able to find hazelnuts that have already been blanched and peeled. The other ingredients are tender leaves — arugula, lamb’s lettuce, baby chard, radicchio or a combination — and assorted herbs, such as cilantro, dill, mint, basil, tarragon, chervil, etc. The dressing consists of a drizzle of olive oil (or hazelnut oil if you can find it) and a few drops of high-quality balsamic vinegar.
For best results, prepare the salad shortly before serving it, and use only the freshest herbs. The hazelnuts will need to be roasted, and this may be done well ahead of time.
This salad is just fine as is, but if you feel like it you can embellish with other ingredients, for example grapes (blue, purple or red, but I wouldn’t recommend green), chopped dates, bits of pear, roquefort, goat cheese, bits of cured ham, etc. And if hazelnuts are a problem for any reason, you can substitute walnuts.
The quantities below will serve 2 people.
3 tbsp. hazelnuts, preferably blanched
2 large handfuls of tender leaves: arugula, lamb’s lettuce, radicchio, baby chard, etc., alone or in combination
2-3 sprigs each of: cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, tarragon, basil, chervil (use at least four types)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbps. olive oil, hazelnut oil, or a combination
1 tsp. thick balsamic vinegar
Begin by preparing the hazelnuts. If the skins are still attached, you will have to blanch them, which is a finicky and time-consuming process (see note below). This is why I would recommend using hazelnuts that come already blanched.
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F, gas mark 6).
Place the blanched hazelnuts in a baking pan. When the oven is hot, roast the nuts for about five minutes — but be careful, as they can roast very quickly and if they burn you will need to start over (this happened to me). Remove the nuts from the oven when they’ve turned a light golden brown. Set aside.
Wash the tender leaves and spin dry. Place on a serving platter or shallow salad bowl.
Strip the leaves from the sprigs of herbs — this takes a little time, but is well worth the effort. (On the cutting board at right, going clockwise from noon, there is cilantro, tarragon, parsley, basil, dill and mint).
Scatter the herbs over the tender leaves. Scatter the hazelnuts on top. Sprinkle with salt and grind on some black pepper.
At this point you can pause the recipe for up to an hour.
When ready to serve, drizzle the salad prettily with the olive oil and balsamic. Bring to the table, toss and serve. Serves 2.
Note: If you start with unpeeled hazelnuts, you will need to blanch them to remove the peels. Fill a small pot halfway up with water and bring to a boil. Add the hazelnuts. Boil for 3-5 minutes. Drain through a sieve. Rub the nuts to remove the peels — you can use the scratchy side of a kitchen sponge to help with this. Allow the nuts to dry thoroughly before roasting.
I will just add that I saw a tip online that proposed adding baking soda to the water in which you boil the nuts — apparently this makes the skins detach more easily. I chose not to follow that advice, so I don’t know whether it helps or not. But you may want to try it, as it took me half an hour to remove the skins from about 20 hazelnuts — a process I would not care to repeat.