A few people have asked me what I thought of the food on the cruise we took and I admit, I’ve been dodging the question. If there could be a tiny, unfortunate thing at making a craft of getting food to taste the exact way you wish it to in your own kitchen, it would definitely be that the food outside it never tastes as good as it once did — especially food at a week long all-you-can-eat-buffet. Given, understandably, that nobody wants to eat their spaghetti while you espouse on all of the techniques the kitchen could have employed to avoid gumminess, like I said, I mostly shut up.
I’ll tell you this, though — the salad bar delighted me. Seriously, guys, this is what counts as a good time these days: salad. I just love being able to plop this, that and the other on a bed of lettuce — real ones, like arugula and butter lettuce and freaking radicchio, people. They had it out every night.
I also came to realize on the trip that as much as I love a light, delicate vinaigrette with an equally delicate pile of greens, the busier and crunchier my salad gets, the richer and creamier I want my dressing — and I don’t mean suspiciously creamy, like those bottled “ranch” variants. So when I got home with all of these salad thoughts on my mind and had about 15 minutes to prepare a Passover seder for 8.5 (the .5 really just licked the Hagaddah) I remembered (yes, another) glorious salad recipe from Sunday Suppers that seemed right up my alley.
It sounds simple — leafy things, sliced fruit and a creamy dressing — but it is so much more — bitter, bitter radicchio with slivers of fresh mint, tart sliced apples, sweet and crisp sliced pears, and a dressing that so ridiculously thick and rich — hand-whisked mayonnaise, buttermilk and crème fraîche will do that, you know? — it’s the perfect contrast to the rest of the salad, rich, indulgent and almost luxurious. These things, we like them.
Radicchio, Apple and Pear Salad
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1 extra-large egg yolk (I used one large and a smidgen of another)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (suggested for its neutrality; I used half olive oil but suggest you do so sparingly as the olive flavor becomes very pronounced)
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1 to 2 lemons, for juicing
1/4 cup crème fraîche (did you know you can make your own?)
1/4 cup buttermilk (did you know you can make your own?)
2 apples, firm, crisp and juicy
2 pears, Asian or your favorite variety
2 heads radicchio
2 tablespoons sliced mint
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the egg yolk in a stainless steel bowl. Begin whisking in the grapeseed oli drop by drop, as slowly as you can bear. (I find having a second person dripping it in makes it easier.) Continue in this manner until the mixture begins to thicken.Once the mayo has emulsified, you can add the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream (however, as a beginner, I still take it very slowly), whisking all the time. Arm getting tired? Try to murmur “jiggle-free upper arms… sleeveless sundresses…” to yourself. I find it helps.
Combine the shallot, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche and buttermilk. Gently whisk this mixture into the mayonnaise, and taste for balance and seasoning.
Slice the apples and pears away from the core. Cut into 1/8-inch thick slices (I went even thinner, using a mandoline) and place them in a large salad bowl. Tear the radicchio into bite-sized pieces and add to the salad bowl. Toss salad with half of dressing (Goin suggests three-fourths but I found this to make an overly-creamy salad; you can always add more) and season with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more dressing if necessary.
Transfer to a platter (chilled, if you’re being fancy) and scatter the mint and parsley on top.