Wednesday, October 17, 2007

That Salad


Years ago Chris and I used to go to this restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, called Seasons. This is right when Williamsburg was just about to become super-hip. People couldn't believe there was something so bourgeois as a bistro in a gritty industrial cesspool like Williamsburg. But, there it was. And we displayed our lack of gritty industrial hipster credentials by loving it.

Even in daylight you couldn't really get good vegetables in Williamsburg then, and if you came home from the city after 6 pm and didn't have dinner planned, you were kind of screwed. There was just nowhere to go. Except Seasons.

So we would go there and get chicken liver toasts and hanger steaks and grilled figs and a bottle of Rhone wine and then stumble home to our enormous run down tenement apartment with its 12-foot ceilings that only cost $800/month (which for many disgusting reasons was a fair price).

The thing we loved at Seasons, the thing we started doing at home, was the arugula salad with lardons and chewy crunchy croutons. Lardons, we learned the first time we went, meant big fat chunks of salty bacon. I forget what part of the salad we make now was from Seasons, and what part we added. Through the years it became one of those "that thing"s. "Let's have that thing with the bacon. The arugula thing. With the lentils."

We added lots of things, and took things away, depending on our mood. Grilled fennel. Feta cheese. Then ricotta salata. Sauteed kale in the dead of winter instead of arugula. Croutons in bacon fat instead of butter. Onions quick-pickled in red wine vinegar and sea salt.

By now we have it down to basics, and we serve it broken down, and the kids love it. Bacon, what are you kidding? Plus my son loves lentils with lemon squeezed on them (and my daughter eats exactly one and then crows proudly about it for the rest of the meal). I make sure to serve a few extra vegetables on the side and everybody comes out extremely happy.

BACON ARUGULA LENTIL SALAD

1 bunch arugula, washed and dried
1 cup green lentils, cooked and cooled
3 to 5 slices of thick-cut bacon (or more if you like)
About 1/3 cup of salty white cheese like goat cheese, feta, or ricotta salatta (more if not using bacon)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper thin
1/2 loaf of crusty French bread
1 tbs butter
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Black pepper
Assorted crudite, like carrot, snap peas or cherry tomatoes

1. Soak the onion slices in enough red wine vinegar to cover, with a dash of sea salt, for about 15 minutes. This will mellow them out.

2. Cut the bacon crossways into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Cook in a pan until just crisp; drain on paper towels. Pour the rendered bacon fat into a glass jar and let the solids settle (if there are any).

3. Cut the French bread into 1-inch squares. Throw a knob of butter and a dash of the clarified bacon fat into a pan, and sauté the bread until just beginning to brown. Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

4. Toss the arugula thoroughly with a couple dashes of olive oil, followed by a dash of red wine vinegar. Serve with the lentils, the bacon, the goat cheese, and the croutons. Put out the extra vegetables too. Let each diner assemble his or her own dish.

4 comments:

Marianne said...

Thanks Larissa--sounds delicious! Probably too sophisticated for my 3 yo who hates all things green but we have to keep putting healthy food in front of her, so I'll try it.

Larissa Phillips said...

Try the lentils and the bacon, if you eat meat. My kids don't like the arugula, which is why I put a couple extra veggies out. And, yeah, keep trying!

Naomi said...

like this recipe. our grandparent couple needs all the help it can get in preparing nutrtious repasts. as we raised children, always ate as a family, feel validated that current research says this was significant for their lives.

Larissa Phillips said...

It is definitely significant! All the research says so, in the most surprising ways. Plus, it just makes sense -- helps make better eaters, helps parent/caregivers pay more attention to kids. It's a challenge, but it's worth it. Keep doing it!