cavolo nero with figs, ricotta salata, toasted almonds & anchovy vinaigrette
i woke up this morning with a hankerin' for anchovies. and i'm the type of person who has to fulfill a craving whenever one arises, johnny on the spot. it does no one a modicum of good to try to compromise with my belly once it has decided that something like salted fish is the ticket to satisfaction, even if it's seven in the morning and the coffee has not yet been poured. it's a good thing that it's market day.
speaking of, the market was quiet for some reason. vendors peddling the last of their late season fruits with surreptitious glances as though their goods were a sham. and they kind of are. you could knock autumn in the head with a pebble, and here this woman is pedaling a tent full of peaches, beside them a mountain of hard, green apples that the insects hadn't even had a chance to think about munching on.
the market is an awkward place between the warm seasons and those that bring on the cold. spring to summer is a slippery transition, and the autumn to winter market marches on with such haste that the line betwixt is almost undecipherable. but summer to autumn is like a kid who awakens to the pimply face of puberty. its arrival is expected, but one can never prepare enough to have those bright and bubbly days replaced by those that demand a little more maturity, a little more introspection. regardless the preparation, its advent is always a shock, and we need a moment, yeah? to get our wits about us so that we can figure out exactly how to handle the whole ambiguous affair. this market-in-limbo just never seems 'right', and i'm not certain that it's always welcome either.
alas, summer is taking her final bow and making way for my favorite season. autumn. she has the prettiest name of the bunch, and i love the cold-weather things that we yank from her ground: hard, orange squashes and marbles of brussels sprouts like barnacles on tough, green stalks, greens with leaves so black they could be mistaken for carbon paper. it is the season where a perpetual dew films my windows from mad braising and an oven that seems never to go cold.
i can't say that i'm going to miss summer. i don't know why, but this one did not resonate with me at all. autumn is my nostalgic season, it's a long, happy three months when i get to dredge up all the things that i loved way back when. the air is peaceful, yes, and we are all indoors with fires and friends, sipping warm things and just loving her. autumn. our sentimental girl.
i bid adieu to summer with a group of beautiful figs whose soft bellies were evidence that by midnight they would no longer be delicious, rather, gelatinous balls of gross, covered with fruit flies and mold. i set out to appreciate their beauty early today with a salad of kale, toasted almonds, ricotta salata and anchovy vinaigrette. i also baked a loaf of sourdough bread, and toasted up some chunks of it for garlicky croutons. the result was a lovely mix of indian summer, a nod to incoming autumn, and bit of salted fish to satisfy my morning craving. im glad i didn't eat them out of the jar with my coffee at seven a.m., for this salad was worth the wait.
here's your larder, this salad will feed the lot of four as a starter:
-half a bunch of cavolo nero
-a good handful of almonds
-1 large lemon, whose zest you will also need
-1 rather large clove of garlic
-a chunk of ricotta salata (pressed, salted and aged ricotta cheese)
-2 fat slices of your best artisan bread, about 1" thick, day old is fine
1) preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2) spread the almonds on a sheet tray and toast. pull out and set aside when they're golden brown.
3) tear the artisan bread into chunks, toss with olive oil and pop into the oven. check on them every 7 minutes or so (they will take about 20 minutes), and turn them with a pair of tongs if they are browning unevenly.
4) while the croutons are toasting, make the anchovy vinaigrette: mortar the clove of garlic until you reach a smooth paste, adding a bit of salt for friction will make things easier to get started, but don't add too much. the anchovies add quite a bit of salt themselves. when the garlic is smooth, pull about 1/4 tsp. and set aside. you will see why later.
5) add the anchovy fillets to the mortar and pound until chunky. zest the lemon into the mortar, then squeeze the juice of it into the bowl as well. whisk in enough olive oil until the vinaigrette is sufficiently emulsified.
6) clean and trim your cavolo by cutting out the center stalk. leave it in tact if you have really good jaw muscles and feel like chewing your supper like bovine. chop the leaves into medium-sized flags and spin dry in a salad spinner.
7) quarter the figs and rough chop the almonds.
8) when the croutons are done, rub the garlic that you set aside into the belly of a small bowl, then toss the croutons in the bowl and swish around to pick up the garlic.
9) pepper the greens with coarse milled black pepper and toss with some of the vinaigrette, add the almonds and croutons, toss, and shave the ricotta salata over all of this. add the figs last so they don't get damaged with all the tossing. serve.
here's to the advent of autumn. she cannot come too soon for me!
mangia bene, vivi felice!
This post was sent off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting.