Apologies for the lengthy vacation from Feeding Mr. Wright. Holiday travels (from DC to Chicago to LA to Boston to Little Rock to Birmingham) meant a break from our normal cooking routine for restaurant dining and home-cooked meals courtesy of friends and family. Last weekend marked our return to life in NYC. Out of all the wonderful bar hopping, window shopping, and city wandering Gotham has to offer, I was reminded that eating in and cooking for my true love is one of the pastimes that makes me happiest.
Since we spent the last four weeks indulging in restaurant meals (introducing Will to my beloved Restaurant Eve, a family dinner at Bouchon, and the tasting menu at TW Food in Cambridge = highlights) and being pampered by comforting home-cooked meals (Sloane’s perfect tenderloin, my dad’s famous pot-stickers, Aunt Julia’s birthday noodles and JoAnn’s party dips = rocked our world), we were due for a salad. The scale, in fact, indicated we were long overdue! So salad it was….
My problem with salad, especially a main course salad, is that unless you starting adding roasted things, marinated bits, pickled stuff and fancy cheese (and a glass of red wine) it never seems like a real meal. I want a salad that is 1) primarily lettuce 2) easy to make and 3) makes an impression on its own…..no wine or protein needed.
The solution: a warm and crunchy(!) dressing that keeps the salad fresh and light but makes it feel cozy and rich.
Bonus: spooning the warm, breadcrumb-laced dressing over fresh basil will coax the herb’s sweet perfume into your kitchen.
You can use whatever lettuces you love, but a mix of colors is easy on the eyes and mix of chicories give this salad great dimension in flavor and texture. I thought the dish was so spectacular that it deserved a pedestal, so I served it on a cake plate. Savory food set on a cake plate is a whimsical trick that makes for a pretty (and edible!) centerpiece at dinner.
Don’t sweat the measurements too much. This is the kind of recipe that can accomodate a little too much or this or not enough of that.
Winter Salad with Warm Olive Dressing
- 1 head of radicchio
- 1 Belgian endive
- 1/2 head of escarole
- 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 shallot, finely diced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
- 10-15 great olives, pitted and halved or quartered (I used a mix of Kalamata and Castelvetrano)
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- Juice from 1 orange
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Freshly cracked pepper
- 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Gently cut or tear the chicories however you please. Anything goes. Wash them, dry them and arrange on a plate. Top with fresh basil and set aside.
Warm the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the olives and salt and cook for about 2 minutes more, or until you start to hear sizzling and popping.
While the olives are cooking, squeeze juice from the lemon and orange over arranged chicories. Zest too, if you’re in a zesty mood. Season with a thin veil of freshly cracked pepper.
Back to the pan…..add the breadcrumbs to sizzling olives and let toast for 1-2 more minutes.
Spoon the warm dressing and breadcrumbs (get every bit of olive oil out of the pan using a rubber spatula!) over the salad and serve immediately.