I understand that most people, normal people, can outline phases of their lives through jobs or photo albums or even where they lived; I apparently can do it through endive salads I was obsessed with at the time. In 2005, there was one from Nigella Lawson in the New York Times with toasted hazelnuts, grain mustard, lime and orange and sesame oil. My husband and I were a relatively new thing at the time and he wasn’t terribly into endive but he ate it politely for weeks and weeks, and eventually came around, or caved. Same thing, right?
Nine years later, I surprised my husband with a weekend in Miami for his birthday, although I hadn’t realized when I booked it four months earlier that I would be pregnant at the time and unable to enjoy so many of the culinary wonders of José Andrés’ Bazaar — tartares and raw oysters and his signature gin and tonic and no I’m not still mad about it, you’re still mad about it and want a do-over. The endive salad with orange segments, goat cheese, almonds and chives made up for a whole lot; I couldn’t get enough of it and it made it at least 18 more times when I came home, and demanded you make it too. (I still maintain that nothing goes better with the latke course at any Hanukah lunch or dinner gathering, a lightweight contrast.)
Which brings us to the year 2017 and a date night at Estela. Because I’m really hip and have many clues, the restaurant had been around for years before I realized it was right in our neighborhood, so we went on a whim and didn’t really know what to expect, such as not to go without a reservation unless you enjoy idling in a cramped space. I commented that the place looked like the restaurant looked designed by J.Crew — preppy somehow but also happy to be in the background or maybe those are the same things I don’t know anything about fashion, okay? While we waited for our space, plates of endive leaves kept going by arranged like towers of petals, seemingly ordered by everyone. They looked so plain, as if they too were trying to disappear into the background, but I knew better, that entire restaurants don’t order plates of raw endive unless they know something we don’t. When we finally got our turn to order it we found out that at the bottom of that nest was a pile of crunchy, salty, glorious harmony with crushed, crunchy croutons, toasted walnuts, bits of soft funky cheese, crumbs of salty hard cheese, and a deeply salty vinaigrette with a hint of orange. We scooped it onto the endive leaves and ate them with our hands and I can’t even tell you what else we ordered, only that it was all very good and equally playful, but this is the thing I’ve talked about since. I’m not sure why it took me so long to actually Google it because had I, I would have realized that the chef Ignacio Mattos had generously shared this and other winter salad recipes with Bon Appetit nearly four years ago and that nobody is ever going to make it because of what I tell you next: It has anchovies in it. Several.
Now that it’s just us two in the room, look, I know everyone says anchovies “aren’t fishy” and “you’ll never taste them” but I won’t even try. Just know that I’m probably one of the more fish-hesitant people you’ll meet (my people are from landlocked places, okay?) and I know small, pungent, hairy-seeming fish aren’t even trying to win us over but good for them because that leaves more of this for us. They’re wonderful here. They’re not, however, everything. The dressing is all about the walnuts, cheese, and croutons but they provide the background punch and saltly amplificaiton and yet there’s enough going on that I hadn’t actually called it out as an anchovy dressing until I read the recipe. Thus, I’ll also tell you that if nobody is ever going to convince you to eat anchovies, the most solid non-fish substitute I’ve found for anchovies is salted capers. Rinse and mince them up (about 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped) as you would the tinned fish and continue; it’s unlikely anyone but Matteo himself, or possibly this lady, will be the wiser.
Wait, has it been quiet around here or something? I didn’t mean to disappear on you but it’s kind of adorable in hindsight that I thought the process of taking 28 flights to 22 cities on the Smitten Kitchen Every Day Fall 2017 Book Tour (a ridiculously fun thing I’d do again in a heartbeat, more of a summary coming soon) would leave me time lots of time to update this site in any kind of articulate, up-to-standards manner. There are exactly two events left on the book tour schedule — Wednesday night (tomorrow) in Manhattan and Saturday afternoon in Maplewood, NJ — but I’m otherwise back in town, and so excited to be cooking, and catching up, again.
One year ago: Chocolate Caramel Crunch Almonds + New Favorite Kitchen Things and Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts
Two years ago: Pull-Apart Rugelach, Tres Leches Cake + A Taco Party
Three years ago: Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix and Gingerbread Biscotti
Four years ago: Cigarettes Russes Cookies and Sugared Pretzel Cookies
Five years ago: Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Pomegranate and Cashew Butter Balls
Six years ago: Nutmeg Maple Butter Cookies and Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs
Seven years ago: Roasted Chestnut Cookies and Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms
Eight years ago: Cream Biscuits, Coffee Toffee and Vanilla Roasted Pears
Nine years ago: Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust and Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties
Ten years ago: Ratatouille Tart, Pear Crisps with Vanilla Brown Butter
Eleven! years ago: Orangettes, Honey-Hoisin Pork Riblets and Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Crispy Spiced Lamb and Lentils and Stovetop Americanos
1.5 Years Ago: The Consummate Chocolate Cookie, Revisited, Charred Eggplant and Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad
2.5 Years Ago: Crispy Frizzled Artichokes and Saltine Crack Ice Cream Sandwiches
3.5 Years Ago: Coconut Brown Butter Cookies and Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad
4.5 Years Ago: Rhubarb Cream Cheese Hand Pies and Bowties and Sugar Snaps with Lemon and Ricotta
Endive Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Walnuts
To make the fresh breadcrumbs, I go to my grocery store’s bakery section and buy one roll — whatever you want to eat; this salad handles heartier bread such as a sourdough well. Cut off the crust, tear the bread into chunks and you’re set.
Mattos recommended 4 anchovies but I found 2 to be just right; adjust to your tastes.
To make this ahead: The dressing can be made with everything but the breadcrumbs and kept in the fridge for two days. Add the breadcrumbs closer to when you serve it.
Taleggio is a semisoft cheese with washed rind and one of my favorites; picture a firm brie.
- 1/2 cup (55 grams or 2 ounces) raw walnuts
- 1 cup (about 30 grams or 1 ounce) coarsely torn fresh breadcrumbs (see note)
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 anchovies, packed in oil, drained, finely chopped (see note)
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- About 1/4 cup (55 grams or 2 ounces) taleggio, into 1/2-inch pieces
- About 1/4 cup (45 grams or 1.5 ounces) pecorino romano or parmesan, broken into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 endives, sliced crosswise 1-inch thick (as shown) or left in whole leaves (see note)
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
Heat oven to 350°F. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darker, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.
Toss breadcrumbs with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil and spread on baking sheet; season with salt and bake, tossing once, until deep golden brown, anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes, so check on the early side. Let cool.
In a medium bowl, mix anchovies, garlic, red wine vinegar, and 4 tablespoons olive oil just to combine; season with salt and pepper, then add walnuts, breadcrumbs, and both types of cheese and stir to combine.
Mix endive with orange zest, orange juice, and white wine vinegar in another medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.
To serve as shown: Spread walnut dressing out on one large salad platter or individual plates. Top with endive.
To serve as finger food, with whole leaves: Pile the dressed leaves on a platter. Place the walnut dressing in a bowl with a small spoon and encourage people to spoon it onto each leaf “boat” before eating it.