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
- 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
- Cook the cima di rape as per the direction in this post.
- Soft-boil the eggs (6 minutes in boiling water from room temperature)
- Peel and chop the avocado.
- Mix the oil, vinegar and salt together.
- Spread the rocket over the bottom of a deep serving plate.
- Put the cima di rape in the middle.
- Peel and slice the avocado, arrange artistically around the edge of the dish.
- Cut the soft-boiled eggs into quarters and do the same with them.
- Sprinkle over the pine nuts.
- Pour over the dressing.
- Sprinkle over a little Aleppo pepper.
Music to cook to
Below, the Stringspace String Quartet play Pachelbel’s Canon – instruments behaving very like the ingredients in this salad.