Vail Daily column: Like cucumber? Try salad burnet | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Like cucumber? Try salad burnet

Sue Barham
Simply Seasonal
Vail, CO Colorado

Special to the Daily

It looks like a head of leafy lettuce. Its name entices you to fill a serving bowl with lots of it and add your favorite salad accoutrements. But salad burnet is a perennial herb, hardy, easy to grow, with a mild flavor hinting at cucumber.

Salad burnet was very popular in Elizabethan England. Back in the day, an aristocratic touch was to add leaves of salad burnet to goblets of wine. Known as the herb of class and elegance, it was brought to the New World by the Pilgrims. Thomas Jefferson was among our country’s ancestors who grew the herb as an integral part of his garden and heralded this flavor in many dishes.

Novice gardeners can confidently start salad burnet. It needs no special attention. Choose a sunny spot with dry – even sandy – soil (rich, absorbent soil will destroy its roots). The plant sprouts quickly and the young, tender leaves have the best flavor. The plant will flower with pretty red buds, adding to its appearance but lending no flavor. Keep the plant cut back and it will continue to produce edible leaves all summer.

“Its mild flavor makes salad burnet a natural enhancement to sauces, salads and steamed veggies,” said Dustin Beckner, chef de cuisine at Restaurant Avondale. “Salad burnet compliments other herbs, especially chives, tarragon and rosemary.”

Try some fresh salad burnet chopped and sprinkled on a salad. It can be used to make flavored vinegars and salad dressings, herbed cheeses and sauces, creamy soups and casseroles. Salad burnet leaves are a refreshing garnish for summertime drinks – iced tea, lemonade or cocktails. Plant some in your garden, enjoy its beauty and discover many uses for its delicate flavor.

Herbed cream cheese

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8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 Tablespoons fresh salad burnet leaves, chopped fine

2 Tablespoons fresh chives

2 teaspoons salt

Pinch of black pepper

1/2 cup sherry vinegar

Place soft cream cheese in a bowl. Mix in salad burnet and chives. Add salt and pepper. Mix in sherry vinegar to desired consistency. Use as a spread for crackers, crudite or sandwiches. Makes 1 cup, keeps well refrigerated for 2-3 days.

Grilled salmon with cucumber sauce

2 cucumbers, plus 8 thin cucumber slices, for garnish

1⁄2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup whole-milk yogurt

1⁄4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped dill

2 salad burnet sprigs, for garnish

Cut eight very thin slices of cucumber for garnish and set aside in the refrigerator. Using a vegetable peeler, peel one whole cucumber; leave the skin on the partial cuke. Halve both of the cucumbers lengthwise; scoop out and discard the seeds. Coarsely chop the cucumbers. In a bowl, toss the cucumbers with the vinegar and salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cucumbers to a blender or food processor, reserving the liquid. Add 1 tablespoon of the cucumber liquid and the yogurt, cream and chopped dill to the cucumbers and blend until smooth. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved cucumber liquid if needed to thin consistency. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour or up to 1 day. Grill salmon and lace with sauce. Garnish with reserved cucumber slices and salad burnet and serve.

Heirloom tomato gazpacho

5 cups assorted heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 cup red onion, roughly chopped

1 cup fennel, roughly chopped

1 cup green bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 cup English cucumber, roughly chopped

1 cup jalapenos, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1⁄2 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinaigrette

Garnish:

1⁄2 cup red onion, finely diced

1⁄2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced

1 cup English cucumber, finely diced

1⁄2 cup olive oil

1⁄4 cup salad burnet leaves

Combine all the main ingredients into a large container to marinate overnight. Once marinated, puree all main ingredients in a blender. Pass the puree through a mesh strainer. Combine all of the garnish ingredients (except salad burnet) together and mix into your puree. Ladle into cups and top each serving with salad burnet leaves. Serves 4-6.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.