“Salad season can be all seasons — that is, if you know how to build a great one,” Sheela Prakash writes in the introduction of her new cookbook, Salad Seasons. Out next week, the book makes the delectable and convincing case that salad can — and should — be eaten all year round. In writing it, Prakash has joined the recent groundswell of cooks determined to make people see salad as much more than a prim clump of lettuce.
The book was inspired in part by Prakash’s work as a magazine recipe developer: each year, as summer approached, there was a push to create salad content. “Why does salad season have to be just one season?” Prakash remembers wondering. “Can’t we make really delicious salads the other three seasons?”
Her book answers the question in the resounding affirmative: in both the fall and winter sections, there are hearty salads built from ingredients like roasted squash, miso-buttered mushrooms, honey-mustard parsnips, and pancetta. Their common denominator is Prakash’s emphasis on proper seasoning — something the book’s title intentionally hints at — as well as the importance of balance in flavor and texture. “That’s what makes a salad a salad and not a bowl of vegetables,” says Prakash. She calls herself a “balance obsessive.”
Prakash brought those considerations to her tortellini salad with garlic scape pesto, whose cast of supporting players includes asparagus, radicchio, and pecorino Romano cheese. “I used pecorino instead of Parmesan to counterbalance the scapes,” she says. “That’s also why I included the radicchio, because of its bitterness — without it, the pesto is too strong because the asparagus, tortellini, arugula, and basil are kind of mellow. So I needed one more kind of ingredient to fight with the pesto in the best way.”
That feisty pesto was the salad’s inspiration. “A lot of how I start with recipes is that I want to feature one ingredient,” Prakash explains. “This one was 100 percent I wanted to celebrate the garlic scape.” The long, green stalks that grow in curlicues from the garlic bulb, scapes are available only in the late spring and early summer. “It’s like an alien form of garlic, the most garlicky garlic you can taste,” Prakash says. The pesto serves as a form of preservation for the scapes: if you freeze it you can reach for it whenever you need a taste of spring, or a reminder that every season is salad season.
Tortellini Salad with Garlic Scape Pesto
10 garlic scapes, roughly chopped (about 1⁄2 cup)
1⁄4 cup roasted and lightly salted shelled pistachios
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 ounce pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated (1⁄4 packed cup)
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1 (9- or 10-ounce) package fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
8 ounces thick asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces on the bias
1 small head radicchio (about 6 ounces), halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
2 ounces arugula (about 2 packed cups)
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly shaved pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
Step1: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, make the garlic scape pesto.
Step 2: Place the garlic scapes and pistachios in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse a few times until roughly chopped.
Step 3: Add the olive oil, cheese, and lemon juice. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture comes together into a rough paste. Taste and season with salt as needed. Set aside.
Step 4: Add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions for al dente. One minute before the tortellini are finished cooking, add the asparagus directly to the pasta water with the tortellini. Drain the tortellini and asparagus together in a colander and run briefly under cool water to cool down. Drain well again.
Step 5: Return the tortellini and asparagus to the pot, off the heat. Add the pesto and toss to coat. Add the radicchio and arugula and tear the basil leaves into the pot. Toss gently to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer the tortellini salad to a serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and garnish with shaved pecorino.
Reprinted with permission from Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year by Sheela Prakash, copyright © Rizzoli, 2023. Photographs by Kristin Teig, copyright © 2023.