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When disappointment comes to dinner

With the possible exceptions of war, loss, loneliness, homelessness, natural disasters, incurable diseases, hunger, heartbreak, income taxes, yeast infections, and the horrifyingly botched haircut I got last October, there is nothing worse than a bad recipe. Nothing. That’s a strong statement, I know, but test it for yourself—or sit back and wait, because a bad one is bound to find you—and you’ll no doubt agree. There is nothing worse than a recipe that goes all wrong, or that never quite makes it to right. Disappointment, dear reader, is a total dud of a dinner companion.

For the most part, I try to forget about the flops, the bummers, and the busts. They’re pretty few and far between, anyway, and often easy to sniff out. And when a bad recipe does manage to sneak past the guards, in most cases no permanent damage is done—unless, of course, the culprit calls for caviar, truffles, or gold leaf. By dint of willful memory loss or welcome amnesia, I return to the kitchen largely unscarred, day after day.

But the few calamities that do linger, however, tend to involve baking, a strict science in which the simplest mistake or misdirection is magnified exponentially by the oven’s heat and a hungry sweet tooth. Take, for example, the towering lemon meringue tart that wept—nay, sobbed—onto my kitchen counter so aggressively that I had to position it atop a protective layer of newspaper as though potty-training a puppy. Or the Bundt cake that called for combining melted chocolate with cold milk, a recipe that I followed with no small degree of skepticism and which rewarded my efforts with an oddly freckled, strangely greasy crumb. Or, say, the chocolate red velvet cake with chocolate icing that I made for a recent dinner with friends, touting a confidence-inspiring cup of buttermilk, two sticks of butter, and plenty of bittersweet cocoa. Baked, frosted, and plated, it could be called red only if eaten while wearing rose-tinted lenses, and it was tragically short on icing, its bare sides gaping, parched, pathetic. It’s bad enough that my date lives on the opposite side of the country; taking disappointment to a dinner party doesn’t make things any better.

But every bad recipe brings to mind a good one, and if you’re anything like me, you maintain a small arsenal, carefully collected in an accordion folder, for just such occasions. This week, that failed chocolate cake calls for a foolproof chocolate cookie, a recipe that I stumbled upon a few years ago, repeated religiously for a month or two, and then tucked away for safekeeping, sufficiently convinced of its success.

Crisp, crackly, and feather-light, these cookies call to mind the shiny, shattery topcoat of a good brownie, conveniently baked in individual portions. Thin and delicate, they conceal a chewy center, rich with cocoa but surprisingly subtle in sweetness. Each bite brings a meaty walnut under the tooth, and amongst the nooks and crannies, cocoa nibs sound a quiet note of bitterness, a contribution that brings complexity without stealing center stage.

With the possible exceptions of love, lust, lotteries, fireplaces, forgiveness, warmth, health insurance, and refunds for horrifyingly botched haircuts, really, there is nothing better than a good chocolate cookie.

Chocolate Featherweight Cookies with Walnuts and Cocoa Nibs
Adapted from Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro and Gourmet, April 2002

These delicious and dead-easy cookies have no flour or butter, but they make up for it with plenty of sugar. The original version calls for only walnuts, but with an inspired nudge from my telephonic kitchen consultant (also known as Brandon), I threw in a handful of cocoa nibs for flavor and textural intrigue. It paid off handsomely: when I took a batch of these to work, one of my colleagues stopped me in the hallway to proclaim, “That was the best cookie I have ever tasted.” A word to the wise: do not be tempted to forgo the step of lining your baking sheets with parchment paper or try to replace the paper with silicone mats. The parchment provides a delicate sort of traction that keeps the cookies from spreading and helps the thin batter grow to pleasantly plump.

¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, such as Droste
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup cocoa nibs, preferably Scharffen-Berger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and set a rack to the middle position. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, taking care that there are no lumps.

Combine the vanilla and egg whites in a measuring cup or mug, and slowly add them to the cocoa mixture, beating at low speed. When you have added all the liquid, continue to beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is glossy and smooth. It will be fairly thin but quite viscous. Stir in the walnuts and cocoa nibs.

Using a medium (roughly 2 Tbs) ice cream scoop, place 5 mounds of batter about 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. The batter will spread. Slide the pan into the oven, reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and bake the cookies until small, thin cracks appear on their surface, about 14-17 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool them completely on a rack. When they are cool, peel them gently from the parchment paper. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, increasing the oven temperature to 350 degrees before each round. It should take three rounds total to use all the batter.

Yield: 14-15 large cookies



Well, wow.

I hope you’ll agree that eloquence is overrated, or at times like these, anyway.


So, all that business about blushing? That, I now know, was nothing. As of today, my complexion is set to four-alarm fire, but I don’t half mind: Orangette has been chosen as the Best Overall Food Blog in the 2005 Food Blog Awards! No one could be more surprised than me. My little blog that could turns out to be a little blog that does.

Please accept, dear readers, my enormous, unwieldy gratitude for all that you have brought to Orangette: your tireless enthusiasm, your throaty cheers, your comments, your questions, your forks, your knives, your hunger, and your vote. There is really nothing to say but thank you. And thank you, and thank you. That this website has coaxed our paths into crossing is reward enough for me. The rest is just icing, no matter how delicious.

My sincerest appreciation to Kate for her tireless work on these awards, and to jurors Paul, Owen, Derrick, and Megan for their long hours and discerning taste. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners, near and far. You are a constant inspiration.



How to endive

Formal education is useful, I guess, and so is a good upbringing, but all I really need to know I learned in France. Let others write odes to kindergarten; I owe it all—or a lot of it, at least—to Paris, plain and simple. It was there that I had my first taste of love, sweet, delicious, and doomed. It was there that I learned how to live with a family of strangers and, later, how to live alone. It was there that I learned how to love a city, its cement, its splendors, and its subway. And it was in France, dear reader, that I learned to swallow the bitter pill best known as endive—not a life lesson, perhaps, in the strict sense of the term, but a promising turn for a palate.

As a child, I was more picky than pleasant at the dinner table. Though there were few foods that I would wholly refuse, endive was one of them, along with bananas, mushrooms, and asparagus. My father, on the other hand, loved the stuff, and as fate would have it, he also loved grocery shopping. At least one out of every three trips to the store—which worked out to be quite a lot, in our house—would bring an attack of the small white torpedoes, cold and foreboding, sheathed in hard, squeaky leaves. He’d slip them into salads, where they’d lie in wait, caustic, amidst soft, ruffly lettuce leaves. Ever the inventor, he’d fashion from them bitter, bone-white spoons for scooping up salads of shrimp, peppers, and pesto. I learned from an early age to stealthily avoid endive, but it seemed to follow me—first over land, and then overseas.

So it was that at a modest table in southwestern Paris, I was cornered, conquered, and, at the tender age of twenty-one, taught to love endive. Maybe it was a simple matter of maturation, of taste buds and passing time, but there, confronted with an empty plate, a full bowl of salad, and the eyes of an entire host family, I was forced to reconsider. I scooped a spoonful of endive and apple onto my plate, the thin slices pleasantly indistinguishable under a nubbly coat of coarse-grain mustard vinaigrette. It was cold, crunchy, sweet, tart, and tangy, a small wintery welcome. It wasn’t love, but it was likable enough for a second helping. Repetition, it seems, works as well at the dinner table as it does in the classroom, because by the time a caramelized endive and goat cheese tart landed on my plate sometime the following spring, I was set to automatic swoon. Soft and burnished, the endive was mild and sweet, and propped against a cushion of pillowy cheese, it went down without a hitch.

I learned my lesson well, because it still does. I throw endive into salads alongside apples, pears, and pungent blue cheese. I sneak it into a bastardized Balthazar salad, where it folds itself happily alongside fennel, frisée, and radicchio. And it should come as no surprise that I often give it a good braise, my default treatment for misunderstood vegetables and other misanthropes.

With a good, steamy bath, endive melts into a soft, silky tangle. Its bitterness settles into a subtle complexity, an earthy sophistication smoothed by the velvet hand of heavy cream and a salty slap of prosciutto.

Braised into submission, it shares the plate quite nicely with roasted chicken or pork loin, but I’ll take my endive on its own, as a light but rich winter supper, with bread for sopping up the creamy pan juices and a simple green salad to start. There is no bitter pill that can’t be made better by braising—which is, if you ask me, all I really need to know anyway.

Braised Endive with Prosciutto
Adapted from All About Braising, by Molly Stevens

The original version of this recipe calls for browning the endive in butter, which helps to tame its bitterness, but with a feeble nod to my arteries, I have instead substituted olive oil for two-thirds of the butter. Happily, the end result does not seem to have suffered, and so far, neither have my arteries. For best results, choose endive with sleek, tight leaves and no bruises or discolorations, and opt for smaller specimens over large ones.

1 ½ pounds Belgian endive
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs unsalted butter
3 thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
½ cup good-quality chicken broth or stock
¼ cup heavy cream
Coarse salt, such as Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse the endive, dry them lightly, and remove their outermost leaves. If the root end is brown or looks dried out, trim it lightly. Cut each endive in half lengthwise.

Warm the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add as many endive as will fit in a loose layer, cut side down, and cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the endive, and cook them for a minute or two on the other side; them remove them to a large (9” by 13”) baking dish, arranging them cut side up. Add the butter to the skillet. When it has melted and is no longer foaming, add the remaining endive, and brown them as instructed above and place them in the baking dish. The endive should fit in a single layer in the dish.

There should still be a thin sheen of butter in the skillet. Still over medium heat, add the prosciutto to the skillet, and turn them gently but quickly to slick them with butter. Tuck the strips between, around, and on top of the endive in the baking dish.

Pour the chicken broth into the skillet, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the skillet to loosen any flavorful bits; then pour the hot broth over the endive and prosciutto in the baking dish.

Cover the dish snugly with foil, slide it into the oven, and braise the endive until they are very tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil, and baste the endive by spooning over any juices in the pan. If the pan is dry, add 2 Tbs of water. Braise, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the pan juices have turned a caramel color and have almost completely evaporated. Pour over the heavy cream, and bake until it takes on a caramel color, about 6 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature, with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 3 to 6 servings, depending on what else is on the plate.


Let me eat cake

When it comes to Seattle’s infamously rainy weather, I’m usually pretty nonchalant. Sure, it may be gray for roughly eight months of the year, but the clouds make a nice, fleecy blanket, insulating us from the frigid winter air that haunts our sunnier brethren at similar latitudes. And anyway, what Seattle calls “rain” is actually more of a mist—just a spittle of sorts, really, and hardly worth the price of an umbrella.

But today, dear reader, marks the twenty-fifth consecutive day of rain in our very Emerald City, and, says National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Schneider, “There are no dry days in the foreseeable future.” Yesterday, when a ray of sunlight briefly lit upon my desk, it took every ounce of my strength to keep from ripping off my clothes and curling up in the bright, warm spot next to the keyboard—a very, very abnormal response from a normally sun-phobic redhead. Clearly, I could use a good mood-enhancer, and short of a full day of sunlight, a cake—or eight—will do.

The holidays may have been a two-week parade of excess, but no amount of food fatigue can keep me from dessert. Anyway, for all its caloric riches, Christmas offers little in the cake department, a deficiency that has not been lost on my sweet tooth. No holiday cookie, candy, tart, pudding, or pie can replicate the gustatory experience of a good piece of cake—moist but crumbly, dense but spongy, simple but profoundly satisfying. And to boot, cake is uniquely well-suited to sopping up nearly anything: tea, coffee, port, or, if it strikes your fancy and your city, precipitation. I feel only justified, then, in availing myself of a stash of sugar, butter, and almonds and remedying the situation with a few dainty grape-freckled almond cakes.

Coarse-crumbed, delicate, and tender to the tooth, these cakes make up in richness what they lack in size. Subtly sweet but unabashedly buttery, they emerge from the oven like little lumps of gold, palm-sized and promising. With crisp edges and a moist, melting center, they take kindly to a good dunking in something wet, warm, and soothing, and even, maybe, to a deluge.

Red-Grape-and-Almond Butter Cakes
Inspired by Gourmet, October 2003

These cakes are a homey riff on the French financier, a small butter- and almond-rich cake baked in a rectangular mold. Gourmet’s version of this recipe called for baking these cakes in and eating them from 4 small, shallow gratin dishes, but I wanted something even smaller, something able to be eaten out of hand or nestled into the lip of a saucer, next to a teacup. I suppose I could have gone traditional and used financier molds, but because I don’t have any, I reached for the muffin tin. The method here yields 8 round cakes, perfect for an afternoon snack or light dessert, dunked in tea, coffee, or plain steamed milk, or maybe with a glass of ruby or vintage port. For variety, try using different seasonal fruits: wedges of ripe plum or apricot, for example, will be on my list for next summer.

¾ cup whole blanched almonds
½ cup granulated sugar
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
A handful of seedless red or black grapes, halved

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and set a rack to the middle position. Butter or spray 8 wells of a 12-well ½-cup muffin tin.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse half of the almonds with 1 Tbs of the sugar until very finely ground and powdery. Transfer the ground almonds to a small bowl, and repeat with the remaining almonds and 1 more Tbs of the sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and remaining 6 Tbs sugar with an electric mixer set to high speed. When the butter and sugar mixture is fluffy and pale yellow, beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in the ground almonds, flour, and salt, mixing until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly among the 8 prepared muffin wells. Press the halved grapes lightly into the batter, distributing them evenly among the 8 cakes. Slide the pan into the oven, and bake the cakes until they are firm and pale golden with slightly darker edges, about 15-20 minutes. If the cakes appear to be browning too quickly at the edges, tent the pan lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pan; then remove them to a rack to continue cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 miniature cakes


Tender is the cabbage

I love the holidays as much as the next guy, but truth be told, I also love that they only come once a year. So much flitting around, feasting, and fun can leave a girl a little fatigued, both of spirit and of palate. Maybe I’m getting old, or Grinchly, or maybe just wise, but after Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, this Saturday eve all I wanted was a quiet apartment, a hot oven, and a homely head of cabbage.

Even more than the holidays, I love the limbo period that follows them, the calm after the proverbial storm, the moment of hesitation—of taking stock, of gathering my bearings—after stepping over the threshold of a new year. I find myself in the kitchen again, with a few open cookbooks and open space in the oven, now that the cookies, turkeys, and tarts are tucked away. And my hunger runs to the humble and the honest, the dependable stuff, the slow and steady. All of which means, dear reader, that the calendar spells cabbage.

He may be a small, portly fellow, green at the cheeks and balding, but last night I happily holed up with a head of green cabbage, and we braised. I’ve never been much for nightlife, anyway, and the love of a good crucifer will make a homebody out of anybody—or this body, at least. Nestled with onions and carrots under a light blanket of oil and broth, tender was the night, and the cabbage. With gentle attention and two hours in the oven, each wedge went musky and melting, easy under the knife. There is no denying that cabbage is sulfurous stuff, but cooked this way—slowly, and sealed under foil—its aroma softens from raw and bitter to sweet and nutty, skipping straight over sour. Earthy, soothing, and seasoned with flaky Maldon salt, it makes a soft bed for a poached egg,

and a soft landing into a new year.

Braised Green Cabbage with Onions, Carrots, and a Poached Egg
Adapted from All About Braising, by Molly Stevens

I’ve long been a fan of braising red cabbage—on the stovetop, usually, with caraway seeds, honey, and apples—but braised green cabbage may be my new regular. It couldn’t be simpler—provided, of course, that you have two hours to spare—and its soft, subdued flavor makes it an easy pairing for many foods, from corned beef to sausage, roasted chicken, or, as I’ve shown here, a plain old poached egg. And perhaps best of all, it keeps beautifully in the fridge and, as with many braises, actually improves with rest. I like to cook it during the weekend and eat it over the busy days that follow, warmed in the microwave or a low oven.

1 medium head green cabbage, about 2 pounds
1 large yellow onion, sliced into rough 1/3-inch slices
1 large carrot, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
¼ cup good-quality chicken stock, or water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 egg, poached according to the directions here
Maldon salt, or fleur de sel, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Peel off and discard from the cabbage any bruised or messy outer leaves. Give the cabbage a quick rinse under cool water, and dry it lightly. Cut it into 8 wedges, and trim away some of the woody core, leaving enough to hold each wedge intact. Arrange the wedges in a 9 x 13 baking dish. They may overlap a little, but you want them to lie in a single—if crowded—layer. If they don’t fit nicely into the dish, remove one wedge and set it aside for later use in a quick sauté, salad, or soup.

Scatter the onion and carrot over the cabbage, and pour the stock and oil over the whole mess. Season with a couple pinches of coarse salt, a couple grinds of the pepper mill, and the red pepper flakes. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and slide it into the oven. Cook the vegetables for 1 hour; then remove the dish from the oven and gently turn the cabbage wedges. If the dish seems at all dry, add a couple tablespoons of water. Cover the dish, and return it to the oven to cook until the vegetables are very tender, about an hour more.

When the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil over the baking dish, turn the oven up to 400 degrees, and continue cooking until the vegetables begin to brown lightly on their edges, another 15 or so minutes.

Serve warm, topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with plenty of good, flaky Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Note: The cabbage keeps well in the fridge for a few days, sealed in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 serving, plus leftovers for another half-dozen meals


Orangette is a finalist in the 2005 Food Blog Awards!

If we've met, you've probably seen for yourself: I blush easily; I blush often; and when I blush, I blush hard. Rosy cheeks, rosacea, red wine: whatever the cause, it’s my default setting. In fact, when I fill out surveys and questionnaires, I’m often tempted to state my ethnicity as “Other: Pink.” But today, I have good reason for blushing, and with reckless abandon. Orangette has been selected as a finalist in the 2005 Food Blog Awards!

This year has seen the world of food blogs grow exponentially. I am continually in awe of the sites I stumble upon, new and old, and am honored to find myself in such good company. So I am tickled pink, quite literally, to be among the handful of finalists for our genre’s highest—and, well, only—honors. Orangette is nominated in two categories: “Best Food Blog - Reader’s Choice” and “Best Food Blog - Writing.” Voting is easy: just click here. The polls will be open until midnight (Pacific Standard Time) on January 18.

Many thanks to you, dear readers, for your faithful enthusiasm, your generous support, and most of all, your hearty appetite. Orangette would be a sad, skinny little thing if you weren't here to join us at the table.


New Year, New York

Slowly but surely, I am, it seems, taking up residence at 30,000 feet. Though I’m no jetsetter, income-wise or otherwise, my 2005—or the last eight months of it, anyway—was punctuated by take-offs and landings. The airplane has become a central part of my personal geography. Falling in love with a New Yorker will do that to a Seattlite, and to her credit card. It’s been a big year for us both.

I write this from seat 17F, somewhere between Newark and Seattle, with poppy seeds from an Absolute Bagel still stuck in my teeth. It was a full weekend to end a full year: we sampled pretzel croissants at City Bakery, slurped down hot apple cider with my old friend Elizabeth at Elephant & Castle, and shared pan con tomate with lovely Luisa at Bar Carrera; and on New Year’s Eve, we toasted with French 75s and French fries at Balthazar. But frankly, when we weren’t sampling, slurping, sharing, and toasting, we were plodding through the rain and feeling pretty sniffly and sick, Brandon with body aches and me with a cold. Aside from the brief rustling of my feather-ringed dress, ours was a fairly quiet New Year. But minor disappointment aside, we did do the whole in-sickness-and-in-health thing pretty nicely, and it bodes well, I think, that we share a taste for tangerine-flavored Emer’gen-C.

But now it’s back to Seattle I go, back home, a concept that grows in complexity with each crisscrossing of the country. It’s difficult, no doubt, but if it weren’t, these take-offs and landings might not be so spine-tinglingly delicious, or bring with them so many stories. And as you and I both know, that’s where the meat is.

May 2006 bring, dear reader, health and happiness for us all. May our kitchens be warm and our knives sharp, and may our plates be always pleasantly full. When the instance requires, may our travels be safe—and someday, if I may beg on my own behalf, one-way.

Balthazar Salad, Slightly Bastardized
Adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook

Since he first tasted it a few years ago at New York City’s Balthazar, Brandon has made the Balthazar Salad one of his easy at-home standbys, and with good reason. It brings together a delicious balance of delicate and hearty flavors and textures: sweet green beans and bitter radicchio, bright fennel and dark, earthy truffle. Brandon first made this salad for me one warm night last May, and as fate would have it, that dinner would mark a pivotal moment in our relationship. I suppose it could have been the heat, but immediately after forking up the last bite, I climbed into his lap and, with only the slightest pang of terror, declared my love.

Luckily, I was a bit calmer by this past Saturday, when I had the pleasure of sampling this salad at the site of its invention.

The following quantities make a good-size salad for two—enough for a very satisfying dinner, preferably with a hunk of crusty bread and a slab of cultured butter. I find this kind of meal perfect for recovering from the holidays—or, really, any day of the week. We have left the quantities of romaine, frisée, and radicchio purposely ambiguous, because any proportion of the three is delicious. Just prepare enough greens to have a couple of handfuls each, and dig in.

¼ lb skinny asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
A handful of skinny green beans or haricots verts, trimmed
A dozen or so thin strips of lemon zest
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced paper-thin
A half-dozen red radishes, sliced paper-thin
Romaine lettuce, cut into ½-inch strips
Frisée, ripped into bite-size pieces
Radicchio, cut into ¼-inch strips
Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette, to taste (see below)
4 ¼-inch slices from a wedge of ricotta salata, cut into matchstick slivers
1 small raw beet, washed, dried, and cut into matchstick slivers
A few thin slices of avocado (optional)
Maldon salt or fleur de sel, as needed

First, blanch the asparagus, green beans, and lemon zest. Fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add a pinch or two of salt, and add the asparagus. While the asparagus is cooking, make an ice bath by filling a medium bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Cook the asparagus until it is bright green and barely crunchy, about 3-4 minutes; then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the spears to the ice bath. Add the green beans to the boiling water, and cook them until they are bright green and barely crunchy, about 3-4 minutes. Remove them to the ice bath with the asparagus. Finally, add the lemon zest to the pot of boiling water, and blanch the strips for 1 minute before removing them to a cutting board. Blot the zest dry with a paper towel, and mince it finely.

Remove the asparagus and green beans from their ice bath, dry them well on paper towels, and place them in a large salad bowl. Add the fennel, radishes, romaine, frisée, and radicchio, and toss to mix. Add vinaigrette to taste and toss again to coat each leaf and green with a thin sheen. Serve, topping each portion with a few fingersful of ricotta salata, a few slivers of beet, and a slice or two of avocado, if you like, and cap with a light sprinkling of minced lemon zest. Season with salt to taste.

Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette
Adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs mild olive oil
2 Tbs white truffle oil

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the olive and truffle oils, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the dressing is thoroughly emulsified. The vinaigrette will keep, refrigerated in a sealed container, for one week.