It’s not my best quality, but I have a hard time talking about kale or quinoa with a straight face. When an ingredient is everywhere, when it is treated as if it were the answer to all food questions — what might feed us dinner/a kid be tricked into eating in muffins/be juiced for longevity/and possibly even save the earth — I can’t help but want to rebel against it and both of these ingredients, these darlings of the farm-to-table circuit with their ubiquity on nearly every restaurant menu in lower Manhattan and upper Brooklyn, make easy targets. I know, I know, I should grow up and stuff.
This salad improves winter morale. It’s for times when all of the usual charms of winter — snow that’s fallen like a cashmere blanket over the city overnight, reducing all of the usual ruckuses (trucks, sirens, deliveries and your own child’s tantrums, which you may or may not have discovered last week you could hear from a full city block away) to the decibel of thick socks padding over hardwood floors — have waned on you; when the “snow” is, in fact, two inches of gray muck, when you are convinced that it will never be warm again and when you fear the next hunt around the apartment for where the snow mittens/hats/scarves/boots were last scattered will be the end of you. Whereas most cold winter comfort foods are soft, rich, carby and white, this is everything but: brightly hued, crunchy and piercingly fresh. It cuts across everything that’s lost its charm; it will be even brighter in your social media feed than the photos of those so-called friends who have abandoned you for sandy shores and island blue skies. This salad has your back.
You don’t have to look at me like that. I know, I know how you and most people feel about lentils. About how they’re mealy and brown and generally lackluster, like health food putty; about how you’ll eat them, sure, but only if you must. And how if I were trying to convince you that lentils are something that you will very much love if only you could try them this way, my way, that this yellow-and-muddy-purple-brown speckled thing up top, despite the ambitious efforts of the bright green parsley chop scattered over it, is not going to be the thing to pull it off.
As someone who has said things like “the world would be a better place if we could all stop pretending that kale tastes good” (on p. 67, in fact) and who is unwaveringly certain that the last thing the internet needs is another kale salad, I am not even sure what I’m doing here. Am I on the wrong blog? But I can’t help it. I had an unforgettable kale salad last weekend and seeing as my life (and undoubtedly various legal statues) does not allow me to move into Barbuto (believe me, I’m considering it as I type… would they notice? I’ve always wanted more windows…), I had to attempt to riff on it at home. And if I’m going to be making it at home, well, it seems rude to keep it from you. We have no cooking secrets here.
I’m not a summer person. Is it uncool to admit that you sort of hate sweating? Probably, so it’s a good thing you already knew I was a dork. New York City summers seem to be endless strings of heatwaves, and humidity so thick that even 82 degrees can feel like 105. Being pale and freckled, I seem to go through my body weight in sunscreen each summer, and still burn. Inside, the window air-conditioner units are always buzzing and always too cold; I consider summer something I must endure until my real love — crunchy fall leaves, cardigans, apple cider stands — returns in late September.
You guys, I owe you an apology. It’s been nearly a month since I first encountered this grilled bacon salad and I couldn’t find a window to tell you about it until now. That wasn’t right of me. When you try it, you’ll understand.
If you’re one of those people who saw the word “pickled” in the title and said “Ugh, no, sorry, not for me,” do know, I was the same not too long ago and encourage you to fight the good fight for as long as you can, because once your tastes cross over to the vinegar side, there’s little going back.