26 March 2022

Weekend Cooking: Salad Freak by Jess Damuck

book cover of Salad Freak by Jess DamuckI'm so thrilled that the spring and summer cookbooks are starting to hit the bookshelves . . . and my doorstep. Thanks to Abrams Books and the Abrams Dinner Party for a copy of the cookbook I'm talking about today.

Salad Freak, which comes out next Tuesday, is an entire cookbook of delicious and unique salads. It's written by Jess Damuck, who after attending the French Culinary Institute went on to cook for Martha Stewart for more than a decade. Damuck perfected many of the recipes found in this book during those years.

We eat a lot of salads in the BFR household, often at lunch and almost always as a side dish to dinner. I usually put together a fairly typical salad, such as tossed, wedge, pasta, chopped, nicoise, or caprese. However, once I started looking through Salad Freak, I was inspired to broaden my horizons, especially because the cookbook is full of beautiful photographs of delicious-looking dishes.

Most of my readers are experienced cooks, but younger or less confident cooks will want to pay attention to the beginning chapters, which give advice on pantry items and equipment and how to shop for, wash, and store fresh produce. All of us will appreciate Damuck's playlist of "music to make salads by," which can be downloaded from Spotify.

A serving dish with a composed salad from Salad Freak by Jess DamuckThe recipes in Salad Freak are arranged by season and highlight fruits and vegetables during their peak times. Two from the winter chapter are the Caesar Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts and the shaved fennel and tuna salad with a lemony vinaigrette. Spring features a carrot salad with a mustard dressing (see recipe below) and an asparagus, peas, and cucumber salad (see my photo).

Summer includes a BLT potato salad as well as a cantaloupe-cucumber salad with a minty-lime dressing. Finally, the fall chapter provides recipes for a celery and grape salad with smoked almonds (see my photo) and a riff on a Waldorf salad. The final chapter contains recipes for spice mixes, dressings, and the like.

I also made the lamb meatball salad (no photo), which was delicious. The meatballs were so good that I plan to make them again for other dishes too. I have a bean and farro salad on the menu for tonight.

This is a cookbook I didn't know I needed until I started cooking from it, and I can't wait to make the many recipes I have flagged to try. I think I've become a bit of salad freak myself.

Note that most of the salads will fit a vegetarian diet and many will work for vegans, though a few do contain meat or fish. Most of the finished dishes are gluten-free as well. For each recipe, Damuck includes the inspiration behind each dish and often provides tips for meal pairings, preparing, and serving.

a composed salad from Salad Freak by Jess DamuckI can't end this review without talking about two aspects of Salad Freak I wish were different. First, as discussed in the introduction of the cookbook, Damuck assumes you'll be serving the salads almost immediately, so there are no make-ahead or storage tips (or none that I noticed). I'm the primary cook in my house and so prefer to make my side salads ahead of time. I didn't have any trouble figuring out how to balance finishing the salad with finishing up the main dish, but some cooks might.

The other issue has to do with the way the ingredients are presented. Instead being listed in the order needed (the cookbook industry standard), the ingredients are separated into sections labeled produce, dairy, meat, and pantry. The recipe directions indicate how to prepare or cut the produce and other ingredients. I'm a mise en place kind of cook, so I'm not a big fan of this recipe format--though I easily adapted.

The good news is that every recipe in Salad Freak either I or the other Abrams Dinner Party members made was a huge success. The salads were both beautiful and delicious. I wouldn't let the unconventional ingredient list prevent you from giving Salad Freak by Jess Damuck a try.

The recipe I'm sharing is for the carrot salad, which I served with BBQ ribs. The salad was delicious right away and again the next day at lunch. Note that Damuck suggests cutting the carrots with a julienne peeler, but I used the julienne disk in my food processor.

Carrots for Lauryn
photo of carrot salad from Salad Freak by Jess Damuckserves 2 to 4 as a side

  • Produce
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 medium to large carrots
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the lemon and mustard vinaigrette: In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons mustard, 1/4 cup (60 ml) oil, and the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

Prep, assemble, and serve: Peel and julienne 4 carrots and add to the bowl with the dressing. Roughly chop 1 handful of parsley and add to the bowl. Season to taste and toss to combine. You're done; that's it. Really.

Note: The recipe is used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Mae Travels 3/26/22, 8:22 AM  

The combinations of ingredients in the salads you mentioned really sounded imaginative and delicious.

best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

rhapsodyinbooks 3/26/22, 8:37 AM  

The asparagus, peas, and cucumber salad sounds delicious and perfect for Spring!

Tina 3/26/22, 8:41 AM  

Cantaloupe & cucumber attracted me and as I read more of your post I was intrigued by many other such as the meatballs and Waldorf.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 3/26/22, 10:04 AM  

As you probably know this vegan loves salads and I am always on the look out for new ideas and combinations.
The cantaloupe-cucumber salad is a new idea for me. I'm sure I would enjoy this book. Thanks for the review.

Jackie McGuinness 3/26/22, 12:39 PM  

Book isn't at my library yet. I have my usual go to salads but would like to look at this book for inspiration as we don't eat enough salads.
I am also a mise en place cook so I don't care my a grocery store shopping list of ingredients either.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 3/26/22, 4:01 PM  

Love seeing the non-lettuce salad! They are a perfect way to get more vegetables in the mealplans.

Marg 3/27/22, 2:49 AM  

We aren't that good at salads I have to say.

Anonymous,  3/27/22, 3:13 PM  

I would love this cookbook, as we are vegetarians, and even though so much of my "cooking" is just putting complimentary foods together without a recipe, I could use some new ideas. Thanks for sharing this.

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