Recipes to feed a healthy obsession  

Reviewed By Naomi Bussin


My name is Naomi and I am a salad freak. You may be puzzled by this disclosure – Is it OK to call someone a freak? If you want to be a freak, why choose salad of all things?  Good questions.  In any event, when I received a new cookbook, Salad Freak by Jess Damuck, I felt a pang of recognition. I make and eat salads daily and I truly appreciate a good salad. A good salad is colourful and delicious and never boring; a boring salad is very sad. If this makes me a salad freak, I can live with that. 

Jess Damuck used to work for Martha Stewart. She talks about spending three hours making Martha Stewart a salad. My obsession does not reach those levels, nor do the recipes in the book.  What I liked is that you can use the recipes for inspiration, or follow them closely, it’s up to you. 

For the Miso Mushrooms and Caramelized Onion with Farro and Herby Hazelnut Sauce, I scrapped the onion, used almonds instead of hazelnuts and added roasted tofu and cabbage. A different dish, true, but I would not have made it without that recipe.  It was an inspiration and an excellent dinner. 

New Year’s Eve Citrus, Avocado and Little Radish salad worked just as well on Passover. It was a very pretty dish, with a mix of citrus and avocado and watermelon radish as a garnish and a simple drizzle of olive oil and salt. I used less radish and avocado and added fennel. It was sweet and sour and good with a heavy meal.  

Swiss Chard with Garlicky Yogurt and Crispy Egg is similar to Cilbir, Turkish eggs served on yogurt, with the addition of sauteed greens. It was a reasonably simple but healthy work-from-home lunch. 

I also made the Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds, Anchovies and Herbs because anchovies are a good complement to cauliflower.  The dish was easy and well-balanced, but because I only like anchovies when they are hidden, I cooked the anchovies before creating the vinaigrette. 

The most interesting dish I tried was Asparagus, Peas and Cucumber “Cacio e Pepe”. Shaved cucumbers and fresh peas were tossed with shaved asparagus that had been broiled until crispy, then mixed with a lemon garlic dressing and covered with cheese and pepper. No pasta. I was skeptical about the shaved asparagus, but it was very good. Next time I would simplify by not blanching the peas and just slicing the cucumber but it was a fresh and flavourful spring dish that I would make again.  

Many of the flavours are classic and you can find some similar recipes elsewhere. But there were also fresh takes, like the asparagus or Roasted Chicken and Carrots with Lentils and Chili Crisp.  Also, I like having a whole book about salad because I do eat so very many salads. If you are a salad freak like me, it’s a keeper.