March is the Month of Expectation – Emily Dickinson
It’s not quite March yet, but at this point of a particularly brutal one, it’s hard not to get antsy for The End of Winter….impatience fueled by a subtle shift of light. There’s light in the sky in the early morning when our groggy household starts the day, and still lingering now at dusk, 5:45 pm as I write this. We are moving closer to the sun!
It was snowing again this morning, but I didn’t want to venture out for provisions. So I dug into the produce drawer of the refrigerator, hungry for the vitamins in fresh leaves and crisp vegetables. I felt like Captain Cook scrounging around in the galley for a wedge of lime to suck on.
I pulled out some things for a salad — a bunch of romaine, radicchio, a fennel bulb and at the very back of the drawer the most stalwart survivor I had on hand; a gnarly, hairy old celery root I brought home sometime last December. This aged gentleman had been keeping to himself in the darkness of the produce bin, none the worse for wear as I discovered soon after I prepped him for lunch.
I made use of another pantry keeper, salted anchovies, to make a tangy, creamy dressing for my winter salad. The whole thing tuned out to be so colorful, crunchy and uplifting; just what’s needed to help round the corner until it’s truly spring.
The colors and textures of this salad were very much inspired by one I had at Balthazar restaurant on a recent cold Saturday afternoon – my daughter and her friend giddily inhaled their hamburgers; then puffy profiteroles stuffed with vanilla ice cream, lavishly doused by the waiter with warm chocolate sauce – while I was content to sip a glass of sparkling rose and appreciate my salad, which is justifiably famous, over a decade after it was created.
My creamy dressing is based on one from Alice Waters’ newest book, The Art of Simple Food.
- Lemon anchovy cream:
- Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon white wine or rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or finely chopped
- 2 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed well
- ¼ cup crème fraiche
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small celery root, peeled and cut into matchsticks*
- 1 fennel bulb, stems trimmed
- 1 head radicchio
- 1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds*
- To make the dressing, put the lemon zest, juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic in a blender or mini food processor, or mix together in a small bowl.
- Slice the tail off the anchovies; lay flat side up and make an incision from top to bottom down the center of each. Use your fingers to open the anchovies; find the backbone, pull it out and discard. Chop the anchovies very finely and add to the lemon mixture.
- Add crème fraiche and olive oil and either blend/process until smooth and creamy or whisk by hand. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Put the romaine leaves in a large salad bowl with the celery root.
- Peel the base of the fennel bulb with a vegetable peeler to remove the tougher outer layer. Slice the fennel very, very thinly – by hand or with a mandoline; add to the salad bowl.
- Slice the radicchio in half, then quarter each half through the root end to make 8 wedges.
- Pour half the dressing over the romaine, celery root and fennel and toss gently. Arrange the radicchio on top and drizzle with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
*To prep the celery root, use a large sharp knife to slice off the top and root end; stand the celery root with one cut side down and remove the outer skin with the knife by slicing all around perpendicular to the cutting board. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the celery root to keep it from going brown, then slice it very thinly. Stack the slices and slice to make matchsticks.
*Try this method for seeding a pomegranate: slice in half through the equator, then turn each half cut side-down over a bowl; smack it sharply with the back of wooden spoon - the seeds will fall right out into the bowl.