Homage to Laurie Colwin: Cima di Rapa (aka turnip tops) salad with avocados and soft-boiled eggs

“Extreme hunger recently propelled me toward this last minute composition: cold steamed broccoli di rape, avocado, lentil sprouts and watercress….Together these elements behave rather like the instruments in a string quartet.”

Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

In the paragraph preceding the quote above, Colwin talks about ‘invention being the necessity of mothers’. I had cima di rapa (turnip tops) which took some finding. What I didn’t have was lentil sprouts (I’m not even quite sure what they are) but Colwin explains that they are crispy and nut-like, providing a good contrast to the buttery and smooth avocado.

I substitute with pine nuts…not too crispy maybe, but certainly nutty.

Then there was the less challenging problem of the watercress. I find it difficult to find watercress on mainland Europe, but Colwin explains its ‘peppery snap’ provides a perfect counterpoint to the pungent and slightly bitter cima di rape (in north America they call cima di rape ‘broccoli di rape’). Rocket also has a peppery snap – so in that went.

Colwin mentions potatoes or hard-boiled eggs to make this salad into a meal in its own right. I thought soft-boiled eggs would work better and ,having tried it, I still do.

So this is my version of Laurie Colwin’s mother-of-invention cima di rape salad.

I was very wary of cima di rapa before reading Colwin’s book – I had heard it was bitter, but cooked through it’s not bitter – just a bit sophisticated – and as a result dangerously addictive. When cast together with these other ingredients it’s simply heaven.

There’s nothing quite like cima di rapa, but I suppose if you can’t find it you could substitute horta (dandelion leaves).

Recipe for Saucy Dressings’ version of Laurie Colwin’s mother-of-invention cima di rape salad with avocadoes and soft-boiled eggs

Serves 2


  • 400g/14 oz cima di rape – cook as suggested here
  • 1 small bag (approx. 100g/4 oz) rocket
  • 4 tbsps pine nuts
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsps walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked salt
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper


  1. Cook the cima di rape as per the direction in this post.
  2. Soft-boil the eggs (6 minutes in boiling water from room temperature)
  3. Peel and chop the avocado.
  4. Mix the oil, vinegar and salt together.
  5. Spread the rocket over the bottom of a deep serving plate.
  6. Put the cima di rape in the middle.
  7. Peel and slice the avocado, arrange artistically around the edge of the dish.
  8. Cut the soft-boiled eggs into quarters and do the same with them.
  9. Sprinkle over the pine nuts.
  10. Pour over the dressing.
  11. Sprinkle over a little Aleppo pepper.
  12. Serve!
cima di rapa salad recipe

Music to cook to

Below, the Stringspace String Quartet play Pachelbel’s Canon – instruments behaving very like the ingredients in this salad.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Cucumber salad with miso-tahini dressing

I can’t now remember where the idea of a miso-tahini dressing came from, but essentially those are two of my favourite ingredients. I grew up…
Read More

Sicilian orange, fennel and burrata salad

“Our next round of food arrives as the wine is drained. Squat burratas in olive oil; rosemary-topped focaccia that is almost sweet;…
Read More

Easy tomato and lamb’s lettuce salad

Lamb’s lettuce reputedly gets its name from the leaf’s resemblance to a lamb’s tongue. Whatever it looks like, from May to November, when it is…
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today for monthly highlights of foodie events, new restaurant at home menus, recipe ideas and our latest blog posts