Wed 24 Mar 2010
Suzanne Goin made me eat salad dressing straight out of the bowl, with a spoon. Sort of.
As I have mentioned before, I’m sitting on a handsome crop of Meyer lemons these days and continue to look for interesting ways to use them. I eagerly turned to Goin’s beautiful cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, for inspiration. The salad that follows caught my eye immediately. Beautiful and seasonal, it earned extra points with me for using up two lemons at a time. I didn’t expect to fall so madly in love with the Meyer lemon cream that dresses the Belgian endive spears.
But how could I not? Like many of Goin’s recipes, it strikes a lovely balance between simple and innovative. It begins with a basic lemon vinaigrette, enhanced with the oniony, garlicky hum of a diced shallot, and then evolves into tangy, silken bliss with a few tablespoons of cream. In a pinch, I found it also works to substitute a mixture of 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons water for the cream if, like me, you usually try to keep heavy cream off your property lest you end up eating it for second breakfast.
Though I don’t typically include restaurant reviews here in The Salty Spoon, I must mention that I recently enjoyed one of the Sunday Supper menus at Lucques and was blown away. If you find yourself hungry in LA on a Sunday evening, go. I was most impressed with the entire operation - lovely ambiance, attentive staff, and exceptional food. I’m aching to go back again, both for the regular menu and for another Sunday Supper. There is something incredibly appealing to me about a set menu from a chef I admire. It’s much more intimate than a full menu, a closer conversation between you and the chef where you listen for insights about the chef’s likes and dislikes with respect to the available ingredients. Goin is steadfastly committed to using seasonal offerings in the best way, and her Sunday menus showcase that approach with aplomb.
But if it is Tuesday and you are hungry for something elegant, you can join me in turning to this beautiful cookbook and finding something marvelous to do with a lemon or two. I’ve made a few adjustments. The original recipe calls for fava beans, which I have been sadly unable to find over the past few weeks. I have reduced the yield of the salad from four servings to two, but the proportions for the dressing are intact. Here’s why: in order to reach the proper consistency with your vinaigrette, it helps to really give it a hearty run with the whisk. It’s a bit difficult to get the everything moving in the bowl the way you want with a half-quantity of lemon juice and olive oil. However, you will have no trouble coming up with alternative uses for the leftover dressing. It’s stupendous on fish, pasta, etc., if you have the discipline to put it away in the refrigerator. If you are like me and find yourself gulping it down with a spoon instead of doing the dishes, well, I won’t tell.
Belgian Endive Salad with Meyer Lemon Cream
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 2, increase quantities as needed for additional servings
- 1 lobe of a medium shallot, finely diced
- Juice of 1 large Meyer lemon, about 1/4 cup
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (see note)
- 2 heads of Belgian endive
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives, cured in olive oil
- 1 Meyer lemon
- 3 T chopped parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
Mix the shallots, lemon juice and salt; rest 5 minutes
Whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice
Fold in the cream
Toss the endive with the dressing
Arrange everything on a platter
Combine the Meyer lemon juice, shallot and salt in a medium bowl. Stir, and set aside for at least 5 minutes.
Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the lemon juice while whisking vigorously. When properly combined, you will have a nearly opaque yellow liquid that is much thicker than it was when you started. Gently stir (don’t whisk) the cream into this mixture until it is evenly combined and very silky. Season with a few generous twists of black pepper. Reserve half the dressing in a separate container.
Trim the ends off the Belgian endive and separate into individual shoots, discarding the core. Toss the shoots in the lemon cream until they are well-coated. Arrange the shoots on a large plate.
Slice the Meyer lemon into thin disks, removing the seeds as you go. Quarter the olives, removing the pit if necessary. Add the lemon slices, olives, and parsley to the plate and finish with black pepper. Eat with your hands, using the shoots to scoop up bites of olive and lemon as you go.