Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks
If you have beautiful lettuce that you’ve grown yourself or found in a farmers market,
this might be the recipe to use. When Peggy finds exceptional lettuce, she thinks of Jean-
Pierre Moullé, the chef at Chez Panisse, as well as our good friend Todd Koons.
A classically trained French chef, Jean-Pierre Moullé is a thoughtful, caring cook who shares his knowledge generously. His influence on a generation of cooks is far-reaching; many people who cook today have adopted his cooking style. The cooks who worked with Jean-Pierre perhaps loved best that Jean-Pierre always gave you (or his cooking) his entire attention and welcomed questions.
Jean-Pierre is an accomplished hunter and fisherman, but Peggy associates him with lettuce because of the delicate lettuces he harvested from his tiny garden in Berkeley. Peggy viewed it as an honor and a privilege when Jean-Pierre asked her to care for his garden while he went on vacation.
Jean-Pierre brought all of his lettuces to Chez Panisse; Todd Koons, at the age of nineteen, realized that California restaurants would buy many of the specialty lettuces that weren’t available in the United States at that time (unless you knew Jean-Pierre). Todd helped bring organic, field-grown heirloom lettuces to a wider market.
Jean-Pierre has changed much more than the type of lettuce we find in restaurants today. Peggy speaks for many cooks when she expresses gratitude for the many lessons Jean-Pierre taught—most important, always spend the time needed to do a task well and always appreciate the food on the plate, the wine in the glass, and the people around you.
3 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
½ ripe Fuyu persimmon, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped, juices reserved
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh, beautiful greens (any combination of radicchio, speckled lettuce, Belgian endive, or escarole), washed and torn into pieces
½ ripe Fuyu persimmon, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 slices Levain bread, cut slightly on the diagonal
4 tablespoons Mt Tam cheese (paste only, not the rind)
1. To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, pour the vinegar over the shallot. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together the finely chopped persimmon and any juice with the shallot and Champagne vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil slowly, and continue whisking until it emulsifies. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, taste the vinaigrette, and decide if you’d like more salt and pepper.
3. When you’re just about ready to serve, dress the salad greens with the vinaigrette. Divide the dressed greens onto four salad plates and top with the persimmon chunks.
4. Very lightly toast the bread slices. You want them to be warm but still tender and not overly crisp. Spread 1 tablespoon of Mt Tam on each warm bread slice, set it on the plate beside the salad, and serve.
Recipe reprinted with permission of Chronicle Books. Photo from Cowgirl Creamery.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of farmers markets and educational programs. Learn More »