Ladies and gentlemen, start your salad spinners. Newman's Own, a brand recognized for donating 100% of profits to charity, launches its nationwide Greens for Good recipe contest today in an effort to help folks help their communities simply by getting into the kitchen. Entering its second year, the competition asks that consumers submit their best and brightest salad recipe incorporating a Newman's Own salad dressing of their choice. The prize? Some serious green: $35,000 donated to the charity of the winner's choosing.
A close friend and fan of Newman's, Chef Hugh Acheson will be judging the salad entries and is stoked to team up with the organization to address what he identifies as a key problem in America—a serious lack of cooking at home. In analyzing the competing bowls of fresh veggie goodness, Acheson says he is looking for contemporary spirit, textural diversity, a little nuttiness (as in personality, though including actual nuts doesn't necessarily put you at an advantage), and hyper-seasonal, hyper-fun personality.
Acheson has crafted his own Newman's Own-driven recipe both to inspire contestants and to honor a program he is currently building in conjunction with the Captain Planet Foundation called Seed Life Skills. Closely tied in mission to the Greens for Good contest, the Seed Life Skills program is a modern rewrite of the home economics and FACS (family and consumer sciences) curriculum, designed to teach middle school students basic culinary, domestic, and DIY skills that will resonate for the long term.
"Teaching kids to bake red velvet cupcakes from a box is not a life skill," Acheson says. "Showing them how to put dinner for 6 on the table for $12 is a life skill."
Acheson has drawn out a course that emphasizes retainable techniques like poaching an egg or whisking up an all-purpose vinaigrette or sewing a new button onto a pair of pants as an attempt to help kids step away from a disposable culture. The goal is to push students to think outside the box when it comes to making the most of available resources. "I want kids to take another look at things and ask, 'Hmmm, can I fix this or make some use of this?' rather than just tossing it," Acheson says.
Acheson makes clear that the initiative is in no way a jab at the current home economics curriculum, just an idea on how to update it, starting with his local school system next fall.
"It stems from wanting everybody in society to have a chance to harken back to skills that make life easier … that’s what school is all about," Acheson says.
And with that, I give you Acheson's recipe—now, go forth, make salad.
CHARRED CARROT and SCALLION SALAD with ALMONDS, AVOCADO, and NEWMAN’S OWN BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
Hugh Acheson | Newman’s Own
1 bunch fresh carrots with tops (about 12 medium-sized carrots)1 tablespoon canola oil1 bunch scallions, top 3 inches of dark green cut away and roots removed1 ripe avocado1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped½ bunch of flat-leaf Italian parsley, stems removed, leaves left whole¼ cup toasted sesame seeds3 tablespoons Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrettekosher salt to tastefreshly ground pepper to tasteParmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to taste
1. With a knife, remove the top inch from the carrot tops, just above where the carrot meets the green. Soak the bright green tops in cold water. Wash the carrots well and place them on paper towel to drain and dry thoroughly. Thoroughly dry the carrot fronds with paper towel, coarsely chop, and set them aside for later use.
2. Heat the canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots to the pan and slowly brown for 5 minutes. Turn them over and char for 5 more minutes. Remove the carrots from the heat and place them on a cutting board to mellow out. Add the scallions to the pan and char for 5 minutes. Remove them to a cutting board.
3. Cut the charred carrots on a bias into 2-inch pieces. Place them in a large bowl. Cut the scallions into 2-inch lengths, also on a bias, and add to the carrots. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and cut each half into halves. Peel away the skin of the avocados, then cut the avocado flesh into large cubes and add to the bowl.
4. Add the lime juice, almonds, parsley leaves, 1 cup of loosely packed chopped carrot fronds, and sesame seeds to the bowl and gently toss. Dress with the Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette, gently toss again, and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Using a rasp, grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salad.