With spring comes an abundance of salad greens, since they're one of the first vegetables to sprout. Salads are my favorite dishes to make because it's easy to be creative with them and they're quick to put together. A trip to the farmers' market at this time of year is a fantastic way to see all the greens available. From the well known varieties to ones with names you might not have heard of before—tatsoi, mâche, mizuna—I love them all. But if I were to choose a favorite, it would have to be arugula.
Also called rocket, arugula is one of the hardiest greens and is easy to grow. In fact this salad is made with rocket grown in my garden. Pick the leaves while they're young and tender so they won't be so pungent and peppery. They are wonderful tossed into a mixed greens salad but I enjoy them simply dressed with oil and vinegar. But for this recipe I take it a few steps further and add some unique ingredients.
With inspiration from a salad I enjoyed at Chez Panisse, I add sunchokes and sardines. The salad I had in the restaurant had cardoons, anchovy, and sunchokes prepared two ways: crispy fried and roasted. Sunchokes are great whichever way you cook them, but they're even more interesting raw. That way you really taste the sweet nutty flavor. Plus it adds crunch to the salad. In my own twist I add preserved lemon to counterbalance the fishiness of the sardines. This salad would be an elegant first course at a dinner celebrating spring.
Rocket and Shaved Sunchoke Salad with Preserved Lemon and Sardine
2 large sunchokes
2 teaspoons preserved lemon juice
5 ounces rocket arugula
2 wedges preserved lemon, rinsed, pulp discarded, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 canned sardines
Scrub sunchokes with a brush under running water. Using a knife, scrape skin from sunchokes. Slice thinly on a mandoline. Add to large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add rocket and lemon slices to bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide sardines among 4 plates. Top each with salad. Serve. Yield: 4 appetizer servings.