Making and eating this salad may be in order if you find any of the following to be true:
- Your family, who likes to indulge just a tiny bit, just visited and you ate out for every meal for about six meals straight. For some of those meals you consumed, in no particular order: prime rib, a BLT, paella, French fries, ice cream cone(s), gin martini(s), a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and strawberries.
- Balthazar is one of your favorite restaurants in the world, but you live more than 500 miles from it.
- It’s now July and it’s in the 80s and you cannot bear to turn on the oven in your tiny un-air conditioned apartment.
- It’s July and you know that a visit to the seashore is coming up.
- You are eating your way too slowly through your CSA box (see #1) and your conscience loudly berates you every time you open your refrigerator door. Those asparagus! And radishes! And dear god will someone please pay attention to those lettuces!
- Supper needs to be simple sometimes, but it should still be lovely to look at. (Bonus points if it’s made from local produce.)
Even if you find none of these to be true, making this salad, or a version of it, may still be in order. It is inspired by and based on Orangette’s version of the Balthazar salad; its connection to the original (which dressing calls for white truffle oil and which my cupboards lack) is therefore tenuous, but I do love any meal that reminds me of that sexy bistro. Try to create some good contrasts of textures, color, and taste with the leafy stuff — some delicate leaves, some bitter ones, some red, some green. The dressing is velvety, bright, and sharp, and would also be delicious drizzled on steamed vegetables (carrots, new potatoes, cooked greens) or as the base of a pasta salad with orzo and fresh herbs.
For two main course servings, take several handfuls of various kinds of greens. The salad above has dandelion greens, red leaf lettuce, and komatsuma, a green whose acquaintance I just made when it showed up recently in my CSA box. Slice some radishes very thinly by hand or with a mandonline. Cut several asparagus spears into 2″ pieces and blanch for a minute or two. Cut a half of a small beet into matchsticks. Make the dressing:
Juice of half a lemon
1 T hazlenut oil
4 T olive oil
several chives, minced
My favorite method for putting together salad dressing is pouring all the ingredients into a clean jar (I like to use Bonnie Maman preserves jars, just because) and shaking it vigorously. I’ve cottoned to this method because I’m sort of bad at whisking. If you’re a good whisker, whisk away. You’ll have enough leftover to dress another salad tomorrow or the next day.
To assemble, toss the greens with a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Add the radishes and asparagus and toss some more. Taste, and add more dressing if necessary. Top with beet matchsticks and crumbled ricotta salata. Mild feta would do nicely here as well. Serve with slices of baguette and a crisp white wine. We enjoyed it with a very inexpensive (about $7), slightly effervescent white from Portugal (Famega).