I've been experimenting with the design Rule of Threes in my cooking. Used in graphic design, interior design, and fashion-- really anywhere design concepts are applied-- the principle is that things arranged in groups of three are more appealing, evocative, and satisfying.
Long ago, it is said, Nordstrom sales associates were required to dress this way-- skirt, blouse, sweater; slacks, shirt, vest; dress, boots, scarf, etc. Accessories were the grace notes added to the rule of threes formula. I've begun to think this is true for the food on a plate as well.
Not only does this method of cooking work from a taste and visual point of view, but it is actually pretty easy to pull together a dynamic dish using this concept.
Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad
In this 30-minute dish the triad of warm earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and cool creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Each of the parts requires very little or no preparation. The simple vinaigrette acts like the jewelry that ties the whole ensemble together.
The rule of threes concept worked perfectly in this recent red pepper, white bean, and feta recipe, too. The smoky bright red peppers, the earthy light white beans, and sharp tangy feta create a synergy that is tied together with a crown of herb sauce. Magnificent, yet simple.
It only looks challenging! Make Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad soon for an ever so delicious, beautiful, fancy-fast-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it is still delicious. Serve it alongside meat, or enjoy it as a vegetarian main course.
How can you use this Rule of Threes concept in your cooking and meal planning? I'd love to hear about your ideas and experiments!
Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad
Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad, Side Dish
This triad of earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Quick to make but ever so delicious and versatile, make this soon for a fancy-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it's still delicious.
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, place the minced shallot and Dijon mustard. Stir gently. Add about half of the thyme leaves stripped from the stems, salt and pepper. Cover the shallot mixture with the vinegar of your choice. Eyeballing it, add enough olive oil to double the volume in the jar, or about the same in height to the shallots and vinegar. Shake until the salt is mostly dissolved and the mustard is thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
Now Make the Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarines + Burrata
Light or preheat your grill for a hot, direct fire/heat.
In a medium saucepan, place the lentils, bay leaf, a pinch of salt, and 3 1/2 cups water. Bring lentils to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are al dente, but not mushy and broken. Begin chcking their doneness at the 15 minute mark.
While the lentils are cooking, place the halved nectarines on a preheated grill over direct heat. Oil the grates first, and place the nectarine halves cut side down. Do not move them until the 3 minute mark, and check for rich grill marks. They may need another minute or so to become deeply marked. Flip them and grill another 3 minutes until the skins have grill marks, for a total of 6-7 minutes. Don't let the nectarines overcook-- you just want them warmed through and kissed with flavor from the grill.
When the lentils are done, drain off any remaining liquid. Sitr in the diced celery and leaves, reserving some of the leaves for garnish. Mound this onto plates or a serving platter.
Arrange the nectarines on to mounded lentils. You may chose to halve some of them.
Place the burrata on top of the lentils. Sprinkle the remaining thyme and celery leaves over the top and serve.
This recipe serves three people as a main course, or six people as a side dish.This salad is especially luxurious served warm, but equally delightful served chilled, especially if you need to make the components ahead of time.Peaches would be just as lovely in this dish as the nectarines. Use what you have or prefer.Recipe star ratings are very welcome and appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback this way.
Have you ever had a restaurant salad that just took your breath away? One where everything is in balance, it's not gasping for life under a soggy dressing, and the lettuce is crackly-crisp and tender as angel wings? You can do that at home, too.
Here are three easy steps to rescue your salads from being sad and pathetic, including a fast and easy no-measure Classic French Vinaigrette. You'll see how fun and easy it is to take that basic ratio and create an infinite variety of vinaigrette options.
Dry Leaves for a Crisp Salad
Whether you wash your lettuce leaves or use pre-washed, thoroughly drying them will help make your salad restaurant-quality. I pile my washed greens into the center of a thin dish towel, fold the long edges over the leaves, gather the corners into my fist and walk outside.
Here's where it gets weird. I stand in the grass swinging the dishtowel of lettuce around and around in huge arm circles like we did in grade-school calisthenics. The centrifugal force is enough to make and water fly out, but not harsh enough to maul the leaves. My neighbors think I'm a total nut. This is the price I pay for perfect salad.
Dry leaves accept a light coating of vinaigrette, and the salad will go to the table with its crisp crunch that won't fade through the meal.
Dry lettuce makes an amazing difference. And, hey, you get in a little exercise.
Dress and Toss For Success
Yes, your homemade vinaigrette makes an enormous difference, but the quantity you use is just as critical to a memorable salad.
With a great big bowl of lettuce-based salad and a nice homemade Classic French Vinaigrette, you likely need only one or two Tablespoons of dressing. This is true.
You won't believe it until you start tossing. And tossing, and tossing. Using two large spoons, gently turn your leaves over and over and over. In a minute, you'll see the dressing not dripping and puddling in the bowl-- it will be evenly clinging ever-so-gently on all the surfaces of the lettuce without bogging it down.
Lightly-dressed, your salad becomes a fresh and bouncy salad that is softly flavored with the lovely vinaigrette, as perfect salad was made to be.
A little bit of great vinaigrette, a lot of tossing. Try it!
Go Easy on Add-Ins
I love a salad that's loaded with vegetables, fruits, cheeses, nuts, croutons, and the works, but that can put a lot of pressure on your tender lettuce. There are a few ways you can remedy this.
One way is to simply go lighter with your added ingredients, as in the salad below.
Secondly, if you plan to toss the salad before serving, put heavy add-ins in the bottom of your bowl, then top with the lettuces and dressing, tossing the lettuce without spooning down to the other ingredients. In the last toss or two, scoop down to bring the heavier ingredients up to the top, and serve with dispatch.
Thirdly, toss your lettuce with your fantastic homemade vinaigrette and arrange it on a platter. Now place your other vegetables and ingredients into the bowl, add a little dressing, and toss them separately before gently placing them on the lettuce. Once again, serve right away.
Lastly, my favorite way to keep heavy ingredients from collapsing the life out of the lettuce is especially nice if you need to make the salad a little ahead of serving. Toss the lettuce and dressing and place on a serving platter. Mound each separate ingredient on your cutting board and drizzle each one with a few drops of dressing and toss it with your hands before moving on the the next. Take each separate pile of goodies and make a little space between the leaves and place it there. Be an artist and arrange these colorful piles around the lettuce.
This last method is perfect for gatherings and parties. Create some gorgeous salad-as-a-meal platters that present beautifully, and either toss it together tableside, or allow your fellow diners to select and build their own plates from your creation.
One Set of Ratios, Infinite Options
This no-measure recipe offers you a few measurements as guidance to get you started, but soon you'll just grab a spoon, a jar and a knife and whip dressings and marinades out like you're the garde-manger of your favorite French restaurant.
Classic French Vinaigrette and Infinite Variations
Use no-measure easy ratios and flavorful vinegars, oils, aromatics, herbs, sweeteners, and emulsifiers to create a world of your own customized vinaigrettes and marinades. Taking your salads from boring, limp, and soggy to exciting, crisp and refreshing couldn't be easier.
For each of the three variations and all of your own creations:
In the bottom of the jar, put all of the ingredients except the vinegar and olive oil. Be generous with the salt-- it's the only salt all your salad vegetables will get!
Eyeballing it, pour vinegar into the jar until is about half full.
Eyeballing it again, pour in about the same amount of the olive oil as vinegar and other ingredients until the jar is 1/2 full. Screw the lid on tightly (very important!) and shake like heck.
Viola! You've made a fabulous vinaigrette!
A word about proportions: We're working in equal proportions of vinegar + aromatics/sweeteners to olive oil. To make less vinaigrette, fill the jar with fewer aromatic ingredients and vinegar. Then just match the height of olive oil in the jar to the height of the things in the bottom of the jar. (If your aromatics and vinegar come ¼ of the way up the jar, add about that same amount of oil to make the jar only half full. Sometimes I only want a tiny bit of vinaigrette for just one salad, and I may only put ¼" of flavorful ingredients and vinegar in the bottom of the jar, topped off with ¼" of olive oil. It's all a matter of ratios, not a matter of strict measurements!
Make it Your Own:Aromatics, singular or in combination:
any mustard, except yellow
any chopped fresh or dried herbs
smashed strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries
jam or jelly
a touch of sugar
any kind of citrus juice
almost any kind of vinegar
red wine, white wine, sherry or champagne
fruit and berry varieties
rice and rice wine
balsamic and white balsamic
high quality olive oil
neutral-flavored vegetable or canola oil
a few drops of sesame oil in addition to one of the above
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.