Homage to Laurie Colwin: Cima di Rapa salad with avocados and soft-boiled eggs

“Extreme hunger recently propelled me toward this last minute composition: cold steamed broccoli di rape, avocado, lentil sprouts and watercress….Together these elements behave rather like the instruments in a string quartet.”

-Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking


In the paragraph preceding the quote above, Colwin talks about ‘invention being the necessity of mothers’. I had cima di rapa (turnip tops) which took some finding. What I didn’t have was lentil sprouts (I’m not even quite sure what they are) but Colwin explains that they are crispy and nut-like, providing a good contrast to the buttery and smooth avocado.

I substitute with pine nuts…not too crispy maybe, but certainly nutty.

Then there was the less challenging problem of the watercress. I find it difficult to fine watercress on mainland Europe, but Colwin explains its ‘peppery snap’ provides a perfect counterpoint to the pungent and slightly bitter cima di rape (in north America they call cima di rape ‘broccoli di rape’). Rocket also has a peppery snap – so in that went.

Colwin mentions potatoes or hard-boiled eggs to make this salad into a meal in its own right. I thought soft-boiled eggs would work better, and having tried it I still do.

So this is my version of Laurie Colwin’s mother-of-invention cima di rape salad.

I was very wary of cima di rapa before reading Colwin’s book – I had heard it was bitter, but cooked through it’s not bitter – just a bit sophisticated – and as a result dangerously addictive. When cast together with these other ingredients it’s simply heaven.

There’s nothing quite like cima di rapa, but I suppose if you can’t find it you could substitute horta (dandelion leaves).


Recipe for Saucy Dressings’ version of Laurie Colwin’s mother-of-invention cima di rape salad with avocadoes and soft-boiled eggs

Serves 2


  • 400g/14 oz cima di rape – cook as suggested here
  • 1 small bag (approx. 100g/4 oz) rocket
  • 4 tbsps pine nuts
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsps walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked salt
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper


  1. Cook the cima di rape as per the direction in this post.
  2. Soft-boil the eggs (6 minutes in boiling water from room temperature)
  3. Peel and chop the avocado.
  4. Mix the oil, vinegar and salt together.
  5. Spread the rocket over the bottom of a deep serving plate.
  6. Put the cima di rape in the middle.
  7. Peel and slice the avocado, arrange artistically around the edge of the dish.
  8. Cut the soft-boiled eggs into quarters and do the same with them.
  9. Sprinkle over the pine nuts.
  10. Pour over the dressing.
  11. Sprinkle over a little Aleppo pepper.
  12. Serve!


cima di rapa salad recipe


Below, the Stringspace String Quartet play Pachelbel’s Canon – instruments behaving very like the ingredients in this salad.


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRdLZyOU4w]



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