Funny how certain days have particular rhythms — and how comforting these patterns can be.
Take Wednesday mornings in my house.
I go down downstairs, make myself a latte, and then get the kids’ breakfast started.
My husband comes downstairs shortly thereafter; I present him with his own latte and he in turn gives me both the Oregonian and the New York Times food section.
After fifteen plus years together he’s learned what I like and he knows I will go all Crabby Pants if he takes the NYT food section to work and leaves it there. What’s he going to do with it?
I walk Charlotte to school and once back at home, I sit down and read the two food sections with a second latte. I enjoy the peace and quiet and daydream a little about the possibilities discussed therein.
Usually my dally with the food sections stop there; I’m content just reading about the newest ramen place on the West Side or who’s making ‘njuda in Brooklyn. I love reading about food I will never make and places I know I’ll unlikely visit, but it’s armchair food reading and that makes it all good.
Every so often though I read a recipe that particularly intrigues and I clip it out, and then throw it either on a clipboard (and then forget about it for a month or so) or put it in a file (and then forget about it for a year plus).
Not so a NYT recipe yesterday –I jumped right on it.
Kale – Romaine Caesar Salad.
Julia Moskin, a wonderful writer, talked about in the Recipe Lab column and I knew immediately I had to try it.
One — it’s a Caesar (albeit a hybrid) and I make a mean one, but I’m always interested in improving.
Two, I like but don’t love kale, and I’ve made that Smitten Kitchen recipe a gazillion times and I wanted to do something a little different.
I’ve always loved the crunch of romaine — so the combination of the two greens made this recipe look promising.
Three, Julia posited that the addition of kale means that it can sit in the fridge without deleterious effect; who doesn’t like a salad made one day and happily eaten again on the second day?
Besides, if you are so virtuous to tackle this leafy green, shouldn’t there be a pot of golden Parmesan at the end of this Lacinato rainbow?
I bet you already have most of the ingredients on hand.
The success of this recipe is entirely reliant on two things.
One, on the quality of your ingredients.
Buy a fantastic loaf of bread for the croutons (they’ll be the star of the show) and break out the Parmigiano for this one.
When I am grating Parmesan for a Caesar salad, I always first start with grating a little lemon; the zest is a little wet but will come off the grater as you grate the cheese and that tiny bit of citrus mixed in with the cheese does exciting things for your tastebuds.
Second important factor. Make sure that you really clean and chill both greens; that snap of bone-dry and sufficiently chilled leaves are what’s going to give the salad that snap.
And one last tip.
Make far more croutons than you think you’ll possibly need.
Inevitably, the croutons thieves will smell the garlic in the air, and like sharks with the presence of blood in the water, they’ll come circling the prey and then attack with a vengeance.
Keep the baked croutons close at hand, and hope that come suppertime there are still enough to simply adorn the salad.
The dressing is so easy to pull together and it’s now my favorite new Caesar dressing.
It’s garlicky and anchovy-ish enough to make it really stand up to the assertive kale and the generous amount of Dijon is a wonderful emulsifier.
This recipe has officially been promoted from counter to clipboard to recipe folder.
- For the croutons (she says optional, I say mandatory):
- 1 small (or ½ large) day-old loaf peasant-style crusty bread
- For the salad:
- 12-16 ounces green kale and romaine lettuce hearts, in roughly equal amounts
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
- 4 to 6 anchovies
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, more to taste
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
- 1 egg
- 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, plus an extra chunk for serving
- Make the croutons. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pull the soft bread out of the center of the loaf, leaving the crust behind, and tear the soft bread into bite-sized pieces. You should have about 3 cups. Spread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until golden and crisp. Let cool.
- Prepare the kale: One large leave at a time, use the tip of a small, sharp knife to cult along the sides of the tough center ribs ( or use your fingers to pull the leaves off the rib). Pull out the rib and discard. When all leaves are trimmed, cut into bite-=size pieces (do not shred).
- Prepare the romaine. Cut the large leaves crosswise into bite-sized pieces. Leave inner leaves whole.
- Fill a sink or salad spinner with very cold water and submerge the leaves. Swish and let soak 5 to 10 minutes. Working in batches, life and drain on a kitchen towel, then dry in a salad spinner.
- Place a plastic bag filled with ice in the bottom of a salad bowl. Pile the washed leaves on top, cover with a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate until ready to serve (I just used a small baking sheet).
- In a blender or using a small hand blender, combine the garlic, anchovies, mustard, a large pinch of salt, about a dozen grinds of black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
- Cook the egg. Poach in simmering water or in a microwave until yolk is thickened but still runny
- (she suggests microwaving yolk in warm water in 30 second bursts). Put the egg in the dressing and blend.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings with mustard, oil. lemon, salt and pepper. It should be pungent and sharp but not acidic. Blend again, transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid, and chill until ready to use.
- When ready to serve (or up to 2 hours beforehand), remove towel and ice from the bowl and fluff the greens. If necessary, transfer to a larger bowl; you will need plenty of room for tossing.)
- Shake the dressing. to the greens, add half the croutons, half the dressing and half the cheese and toss well. taste and toss with remaining dressing as needed.
- Add remaining croutons. Sprinkle remaining croutons. Sprinkly remaining grated cheese over the top and grind coarse pepper over that. Serve immediately (or refrigerate for up to 2 hours).
- Toss once more at table.