Lauri’s Arugula, Red Grapes, Manchego and Marcona Almond Salad
Difficulty Level: Easy, that is, if you don’t need to start your own garden first.
Notes: Only use the best ingredients on something this simple. Lauri used all ingredients from the Farmer’s Market, besides the greens she grew herself. The muddled grapes in the dressing are a genius move.
Lauri Kranz reminds me of all the reasons I love Los Angeles: year-round gardening, healthy food, beautiful spaces and mash-up of high art and back-to-the-land culture that only seems to jive in the City of Angels. Lauri isEdible Gardens LA. She designs, plants and manages fruit and vegetable gardens in Museums (check out the garden at the LACMA restaurant, Ray’s), public spaces, schools and private homes all around the city.
On a recent morning, I met Lauri at one of her client’s homes in Beverly Hills (yes, that is a gas BBQ inside the kitchen). We made a Suzanne Goin salad; Suzanne is the talent behindLucques, A.O.C., and The Tavern, and she is also Lauri’s favorite L.A. chef. We followed her recipe to a T, but most importantly, we harvested arugula from the most pristine vegetable patch I have ever encountered. The garden we were visiting is one that Lauri designed and maintains. She visits a few times a week to prune, stake, harvest and fertilize. The result is so picturesque, the client was reluctant to pick her own vegetables, for fear of marring the breathtaking landscape Lauri had created in her own front yard.
Lauri in her own words:
Julia: How did you start your company and learn all about vegetable gardening?
Lauri: When my oldest son started kindergarten I saw that there was a garden at his school that needed some attention. Having fond memories of gardening with my own father, I volunteered to help. When my younger son started preschool, I started a gardening program at his school. Parents saw the school garden and asked me to give them a hand with their own vegetable gardens. I happily agreed and from those first few gardens, Edible Gardens LA was formed.
Julia: You love music almost as much as you love vegetables. Tell me about your plans to combine the two?
Lauri: We have partnered with KCRW DJ Anne Litt, on a series of concerts to be held in public and private gardens around the city. In addition to the concerts, Anne is curating a series of garden playlists that can be accessed online. We hope to raise awareness of the value of growing your own food and to inspire people to tend vegetable gardens of their own. In addition to the concerts, Anne is curating a series of garden playlists that can be accessed on my website.
Julia: What greens are you most excited about growing and eating right now?
Julia: What is your guiding principle as a gardener?
Lauri: There is no such thing as “perfect” in life, or in the garden.
- 8 cups mature arugula (it is spicier than baby arugula) - ½ pound seedless red or purple grapes - 1 shallot, minced - 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar - ¼ teaspoon sea salt salt plus more for seasoning - ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil - Freshly ground black pepper - 1/4 lb Manchego, or Pecorino cheese, shaved with a peeler - ¾ cup salted, roasted Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped - 1 tbs Saba or balsamic vinegar
Finely chop 7 grapes; transfer to a small bowl. Cut remaining grapes in half; transfer to another small bowl and set aside. Using a fork, mash chopped grapes, muddling them and breaking them down as much as possible.
Stir in shallot, 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar, and ¼ tsp. salt and let sit for 5 minutes.
Whisk in oil and 1 tablespoon saba vinegar. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt, pepper.
This will only get better the longer it stands, so if you have time, do this ahead of time.
Combine arugula and halved grapes in a large bowl; drizzle with vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Toss salad to coat. Scatter cheese and almonds over. Drizzle salads with a tiny bit more saba just before serving.