At Freedman’s in Los Angeles, Best New Chef Liz Johnson does a compelling dance with the deli canon. Her Half-Sour Salad is a shining example of how she reimagines deli classics: In it, a tangle of lightly fermented Kirby cucumbers tangoes with creamy avocado, green goddess dressing, and loads of fresh herbs. This salad uses homemade half-sour pickles, which are easy to make but take time. You can substitute store-bought—look for them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. The everything-spice furikake is worth making; it’ll be your new go-to condiment.
1 pound pickling cucumbers (such as Kirby), halved lengthwise
1 1/2 quarts filtered water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
GREEN GODDESS DRESSING
1/3 cup mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s)
1/3 cup crème fraîche
2/3 cup loosely packed mixed fresh herb leaves (such as flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chives)
1/2 medium shallot, diced
1 large pasteurized egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 nori sheets
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup Thai fried shallots (such as JHC Fried Onion) or fried onions
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
5 cups loosely packed licorice-flavored herb leaves (such as chervil, tarragon, lovage, or nasturtium), plus more for garnish
1 (10-ounce) fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
How to Make It
Step 1 Make the half-sour pickles
Soak cucumbers in ice water 1 hour. Drain.
Stir together 1 1/2 quarts filtered water and kosher salt in a 4- to 6-quart container until salt dissolves. Add cucumbers. Place a plate on cucumbers to keep them submerged. Cover top of container with cheesecloth. Let stand in a well-ventilated area at a cool room temperature of 65°F to 70°F 2 days. (You will see bubbles at end of day 2.) Drain and chill pickles until ready to use.
Step 3 Make the green goddess dressing
Place a large bowl in an ice bath; add mayonnaise and crème fraîche; whisk to combine.
Process herbs, shallot, egg yolk, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, honey, and sliced garlic in a blender until almost smooth, about 10 seconds. Quickly drizzle in olive oil, and process until thickened and smooth.
Pour herb mixture though a medium wire-mesh strainer into crème fraîche mixture; whisk to combine. Season with kosher salt and, if desired, additional lemon juice. Chill until ready to serve. Dressing may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days.
Step 6 Make the everything-spice furikake
Heat canola oil in a small skillet over medium-high to 325°F. Stir in chopped garlic, and fry, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Turn heat off, and let garlic stand in canola oil until dark golden, about 1 minute. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard oil. Blot garlic on paper towels.
Turn gas burner of a stovetop to low. Brush nori sheets with sesame oil. Toast both sides of nori directly over flames until nori begins to shrivel slightly, about 10 seconds per side. Let cool until crisp, about 2 minutes. Using scissors, cut nori into small pieces.
Stir together fried garlic, nori, fried shallots, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, and flaky sea salt in a medium bowl until combined. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.
Step 9 Assemble the salad
Cut half-sour pickles into bite-size pieces, and toss together with licorice-flavored herbs and fennel in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup green goddess dressing, and toss gently. Transfer salad to a large serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Top with avocado, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Garnish with additional herbs, if desired. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup everything-spice furikake.
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