However, this past Sunday, I found the most beautiful lot of mixed baby brassicas. They were so small and tender that I couldn't imagine subjecting them to the normal treatment of sizzling pancetta fat and hot stock. Instead, I decided to massage a big bowl of the greens with a little bagna cauda and fresh lemon juice. I let them sit in the warm dressing for ten minutes or so, giving them time to soften and absorb the bold flavors of anchovy, garlic and chile de arbol. The resulting salad was so good, I kept returning to the kitchen to steal a fork-full, even after swearing I would save a serving for my soon-to-be-home and sure-to-be-hungry husband (he's grateful I cook, but hates it when I eat all of the food).
BABY BRASSICAS WITH BAGNA CAUDA
I kept things simple here, but shards of any hard, aged cheese would be a welcome addition, as would some toasted almonds or pine nuts.
Big Bowl of Baby Brassicas (I didn't weigh the greens, but it was about five big handfuls)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 salt-packed anchovies, minced (this is not optional)
6(!) cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled and roughly minced 2 chile de arbol, stemmed and roughly sliced zest of 1 lemonjuice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
sea salt to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Add anchovies and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the anchovies begin to dissolve in the oil, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add a pinch of salt, the chile de arbol (seeds and all!), garlic and thyme. Continue to cook for a minute more. Turn off the heat and allow the garlic to finish cooking in the residual heat – making sure the garlic doesn’t brown. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, place the baby greens in a large mixing bowl, tearing any large pieces into about 3-inch lengths.
Pour warm dressing over the bowl of baby greens (*you may not need it all; add enough so that each green is coated). Massage the dressing into the leaves. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as necessary. Let the greens marinate for about 10 minutes before serving.
*If you have left-over bagna cauda, here are a few ideas:
Pour it over potatoes + poached eggs.
Roast cauliflower florets in olive oil and salt (until brown + crispy); top them with bagna cauda, copious amount of parsley (or spinach, if herbs aren't your thing) and a little more lemon zest.
Use it as a sandwich spread: baguette, ricotta, roasted (or grilled) scallions or baby leeks, bagna cauda.