When I saw the dandelion greens, sorrel and herbs from my CSA next to a burrata — mozzarella filled with creamy curds — in the fridge, I had an inspiration: a simple chopped salad of bitter and sour greens and a hit of basil dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, anchovy and garlic (my simplification of a classic Caesar dressing). It took only minutes to make. I scooped the burrata into a bowl alongside of a mound of the dressing and finished it with good olive oil and freshly ground pepper.
Friends that were hanging out with me gobbled down the first bowl.
A sublime, instant, summer improvisation with what was at hand.
Chopped salads can be made with just about any combination of greens and herbs: arugula, puntarelle, rachicchio, endive, basil, chives, Italian parsley Lemon zest can add a nice counterpoint of flavor. The anchovy dressing is delicately flavored with anchovy that acts like umami to enhance all elements.
Recipe: Anchovy, Olive, Garlic and Lemon Dressing
Since its flavors are assertive, this dressing stands up particularly well to strongly flavored foods: bitter greens like dandelion, puntarelle and radicchio; cooked vegetables of all kinds from potatoes to eggplant to roasted peppers to cauliflower and broccoli; cheeses especially feta, ricotta salata and creamy sheep and goat’s milk; cold roast veal, pork and lamb; and pastas of all kinds. To sauce vegetables or pasta, warm it in a pan first until the garlic is fragrant and gently cooked. It is also a great, simple dressing for Caesar Salad.
Makes 1/3 cup, about 4 servings
1 small garlic clove, peeled
4 imported anchovies in oil, drained and patted dry*
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or olive-infused olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or to taste
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sugar
Grate the garlic on a plane grater, or place on a cutting board, sprinkle with a little salt and finely chop with a chef’s knife; use the side of the knife to mash the garlic to a paste (you should have about 1/3 teaspoon).
Place the anchovies on the garlic puree and chop and mash them with the garlic. Transfer to a small bowl.
Drizzle in the olive oil, using a pestle, the back of a large spoon or whisk to work it into the anchovy-garlic mixture; add fresh pepper to taste. If you will be using the dressing for salads, stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Store any unused dressing in a covered jar in the refrigerator, up to 2 weeks.
*A Note About Anchovy. Anchovy is the element that gives this sauce its indescribable flavor. It is neither fishy nor salty, rather, it adds an appealing pungency and punches up the flavors it comes into contact with, in the way salt does. I suspect that when people say “I don’t like anchovies”, it’s often because they have had them badly handled: either of poor quality (which can have a distinct fishiness) or used in too great a concentration or because just the notion of a tiny salted fish is off-putting. Emulsified within a well-made Caesar sauce, nobody says ever a word.
You have two possibilities when it comes to anchovies. The easiest one is to use good quality olive oil-packed anchovies. The fillets should be plump, tender and sweet tasting, not fishy. Remove the anchovies from the oil and rinse under warm water, then pat dry.
The second choice is anchovies packed in salt. They have a much brighter anchovy flavor than oil-packed anchovies so you’ll need half as many. They must be soaked to remove their salt. Rinse off the salt and soak the anchovies in several changes of warm water until they are very pliable: from a few hours to overnight (soaking also removes the salt). Rinse again to remove any scales and gently pry the fillets off the spines.