Even without fancy dressing, this showy Mediterranean-style salad makes a spectacle of itself. Chef Timothy Keating of the Omni Houston Hotel’s La Rèserve restaurant (4 Riverway), created the “intense” salad, as he calls it, for a fundraiser last year on a Hollywood soundstage, where he was “elbow-deep in roasted vegetables, bags of basil, and jars of olives.” Keating now serves the health-conscious salad as a crowd-pleasing vegetarian entrèe, accompanied by toast spread with a garlicky bean purèe. “The ingredients are staples in my kitchen—and plenty flavorful,” he says. Each forkful has a character of its own, and the taste resonates long after the last bite.


1/2 ounce white vinegar
1/2 lemon
1 head fennel
6 baby artichokes
1/2 pound cipolline (pearl onions optional)
1 pound small red potatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 red bell peppers
1/2 cup deli olives (Provence or calamata)
2 small heads salad greens
1/2 bunch each fresh basil and oregano
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 ounces good red wine vinegar
Fresh ground pepper
1/8 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan

To 2 quarts of boiling salted water add white vinegar, juice from lemon, and lemon half. Blanch fennel for 3 minutes and remove to ice bath. Boil artichokes for 8 to 10 minutes; drain upside down. Blanch cipolline for 4 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and roast until tender, about 25 minutes. Roast pine nuts on cookie sheet until light brown. Roast peppers until skin is black; remove skin, seed, and slice into chunks.

Slice fennel lengthwise in large julienne strips. Remove tough outer artichoke leaves, cut off spiny tops, then cut into quarters. Place prepared ingredients in large bowl with olives, greens,herbs, and pesto. Toss with remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar,and pepper. Top with cheese.

Cannellini Bean Capriata

1/2 cup cannellini (white kidney beans)
1/2 large onion, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove elephant garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 head radicchio, cut in sixths
1/2 loaf country bread, sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Soak beans overnight. In medium saucepan sautè onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent. Add beans, cover with water, and cook until soft.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast garlic until soft; peel and purèe beans in food processor, adding 1/3 of the purèed garlic and 1/4 cup oil; season.

Spread olive oil and remaining purèed garlic on bread and toast. Spread with bean purèe; top with radicchio and splash of balsamic vinegar. Serves 5 to 6.