Being a Top Chef contestant can be grueling and exhausting and crazy fun. When we're all wiped out from nonstop competition, we do what we do best: eat good food. Some of my most memorable meals with those talented chefs involved banh mi, traditional Vietnamese sandwiches that layer cured meats, sausages, and pickled vegetables in small, soft versions of French baguettes. I love anything with pickles and fresh cilantro! I've put those flavors in a burger patty here and sandwiched them in my favorite French roll: buttery brioche. The rich bread makes all the difference, as does high-quality pork.
This recipe is an ancient Persian take on the spinach salad from masterful writer Joan Nathan. Spinach is quickly blanched in boiling water, then pulsed in a food processor with cilantro, walnuts and garlic until roughly chopped. Toss with vinegar, salt and pepper and serve at room temperature alongside a chunk of whole grain bread and good butter and you have a delicious spring dinner.