As much as I love eating chocolate, cooking spaghetti, and sharing cookies with friends, I don’t love reading about food. I haven’t read Anthony Bourdain or Feeding a Yen or anything by Julia Child. My foodie reading taps out after recipe intros and exposes about processed food (which, okay, I could read about a million of. Also love reading about nutrition. Anyway.)
A few weeks ago an article about salad in the New York Times Magazine changed my feelings about pure and simple food writing. The piece was about Canlis, a top restaurant in Seattle I’ve never been to, and it was practically a hagiography–to salad. The salad uses the best steakhouse standards, writes Sam Sifton, beginning with romaine lettuce, bacon, croutons, cherry tomatoes.
Rapt, I kept reading. The salad had more to offer. Mint, oregano, scallions. And a dressing made from lemon, olive oil, and a single coddled egg which emulsifies and enriches the dressing without killing off the citrus’s tanginess or becoming heavy, like some vinaigrettes. The salad sounded good, but I knew it was the dressing I would make first. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Seriously.
In the five weeks since I read that ode to Canlis’s salad, I’ve made the dressing half a dozen times. I use different vegetables as a vehicle for conveying it to my mouth, but this combination of crunchy romaine, sweet fennel, and slightly bitter radicchio is my favorite. Don’t skimp on the cheese here, which adds saltiness and makes the salad reminiscent of good old-fashioned caesar.
Romaine and Radicchio Salad with Shaved Fennel and Canlis Dressing
Serves one generously or two as side salads, with extra dressing
Adapted from Canlis, via the New York Times
You can improvise far and wide with this salad base, but here are some of my favorites: cubed avocado, a handful of cooked Puy lentils, 1 or 2 finely chopped anchovies, and then of course cubed poached or roasted chicken to make this a meal.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 or 2 lemons
About 12 big romaine lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 radicchio, outer leaves and core removed, sliced thin
1/2 fennel bulb, core removed and slivered on a mandolin
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (you can do this in a food processor to get a nice crumbly texture)
1 small carrot, peeled, trimmed, and grated
Freshly ground pepper
In a large mixing bowl or salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.
Place the egg in mug. Pour boiling water over it and set a timer for 1 minute. When it beeps, carefully remove the egg and run it under cold water until it’s cool to the touch. Crack the egg into the olive oil and lemon juice mixture and whisk together immediately. You’ll see the dressing emulsify. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and pour most of the dressing into a spouted measuring cup or a jar to keep it in the fridge.
Add the torn romaine, radicchio, fennel, Parmesan, and carrot to the salad bowl. Pour some of the reserved dressing over, toss, then taste and add salt and pepper to your taste. Toss again.