3 of a Kind: Fermented Salads

Chefs are using pickled vegetables and fermented dressings to create tangy twists on typical salads.

3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

Hold on to your forks, because chefs across the country are using fermentation to spice up that classic menu staple: the salad. While fermented salads have long been consumed in Asian countries, with Burmese tea salads, Korean kimchi and some Thai salads being categorized as such, the trend has only recently taken root in the United States. With healthy eating and probiotics coming into favor, fermentation has started to become more mainstream. The pros are jumping on board, using pickled vegetables and fermented dressings to create tangy twists on typical salads. Here are a few spots offering fermented spins of their own.

Fermented Cabbage with Grapefruit, Sea Beans, Scallions and Crab from Cherry Point, Brooklyn

This new Brooklyn neighborhood restaurant has a focus on housemade, ethically produced charcuterie, and also on seasonal vegetables. One stellar pick is the Jonah Crab Salad. This dish brings together fermented cabbage, grapefruit, Jonah crab, sea beans and scallions. The combination makes for the perfect balance of sweet, tangy and salty elements.

Lacto-Fermented Green Tomato Salad from Earth at Hidden Pond, Kennebunkport, Maine

Executive Chef Justin Walker and his wife Danielle can harvest nature’s bounty only steps away from their restaurant. In addition to tapping into the agriculture of coastal Maine to create his dishes, Walker can pull from both an extensive chef’s garden located on the restaurant’s premises and a personal garden grown by him and his wife. This season, the pair planted more than 200 organic heirloom tomato plants, which yielded around 250 pounds. In prime season they serve the tomatoes simply with olive oil and sea salt, but in the fall they like to lacto-ferment the post-peak green fruit that doesn’t have time to ripen. Walker dissolves salt in a gallon of water, which he pours over the tomatoes and keeps open to the air at room temperature for several days. When the tomatoes start to break down and ferment, they're moved to cold storage to bring out their flavor to the fullest. Once they’re ready to be served, Walker pairs them with goat ricotta and greens or heirloom squash.

Orange Sour Carrots from Hewn Bread, Evanston, Ill.

If the hand-mixed, hand-formed artisanal bread made with heritage grains are the obvious draw at this cozy bakery, the fermented salads are the sleeper hit. Co-owner and head baker Ellen King serves versatile fermented salads whose preparation goes beyond pickling and salting. King’s approach is to add fermented elements to raw vegetables and watch the flavors evolve while they soak up the juices. One standout is her take on an Israeli salad. To start, King tosses shredded multicolored carrots with harissa and the juice of Cara Cara oranges. To balance out the sweetness of the oranges and carrots, juice from sauerkraut is added. King then folds in cilantro and serves the salad as a stand-alone dish or atop a roasted spicy eggplant.

Photos courtesy of Cherry Point, Earth at Hidden Pond and Hewn Bread
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