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Chef's Day Off

What do gifted, hard-driving, highly overworked professional cooks do to relax? Cook, for one thing. Six top New York chefs talk about their ideal weekends -- with recipes, of course.

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Daniel Boulud
DANIEL, CAFÉ BOULUD

Dream Weekend: To be able to leave Friday and come back Monday -- but that's only happened twice. Saturday Rules: I like to see people I don't see at work during the week. Affairs to Remember: Once a year, I do a big fondue party for about 30 people, 15 of whom are the greatest chefs in New York: Charlie Palmer, Alfred Portale, Jean-Georges, Gray Kunz, and on and on like that.

Each recipe serves six.

Salad Meridionale

Pesto:

2 large bunches basil, leaves only, washed

1/2 clove garlic, peeled and germ removed

1 teaspoon pine nuts, very lightly toasted

1 teaspoon finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 Japanese eggplant, peeled, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1 sprig thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound green beans or haricots verts, ends trimmed

1 small zucchini, cut into 11/2-by-1/2-inch sticks

18 large shrimp (12-14 size), peeled and deveined

1 small jar piquillo peppers, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips

5 tomatoes, seeded and cut into eighths

6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 small celery heart including leaves, stalks thinly sliced on the bias

1/2 English cucumber, unpeeled, cut into thin 2-inch-long sticks

1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch lengthwise slices

1/2 pound mesclun mix, washed and dried

1/4-pound wedge ricotta salata cheese, thinly sliced

12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Small bunch chives, finely sliced

Pesto: Plunge the basil into a pot of boiling salted water, and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain the leaves, run under cold water to cool, and then drain thoroughly.

Place the blanched basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, and oil in a food processor, and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to cover.

Lemon vinaigrette: Whisk the lemon juice and oil together in a small bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Salad: Warm the oil in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, sprig of thyme, and crushed garlic, and cook until the eggplant is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove the thyme and garlic, and set the eggplant aside on a large sheet pan to cool.

Bring a medium-size saucepan of salted water to a boil. Plunge the green beans into the water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander, and immediately run them under very cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside on the sheet pan. Repeat with the zucchini, reducing the cooking time to 2 minutes.

Bring another medium-size saucepan of salted water to a boil, add the shrimp, and simmer (do not boil) for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Set the remaining vegetables on the sheet pan with the cooked vegetables, sprinkle with half the vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a large serving platter with a little pesto, and arrange the peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, avocado, green beans, zucchini, radish, celery, and cucumber around the perimeter of the platter. Drizzle a little more pesto over the vegetables. Toss the mesclun greens in a bowl with the remaining vinaigrette, and mound the mesclun in the center of the platter. Place the shrimp, cheese, and olives around the mesclun greens. Sprinkle with chives and a little more pesto. Serve the salad with separate bowls of hard-boiled quail eggs, pesto, and sea salt.


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