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Balthazar Salad

October 5, 2010

by Elizabeth

I eat a lot of salads, nearly every day for lunch actually. But this is mostly so I can also eat obscene amounts of cheese and pizza, not because I think salad is particularly exciting and delicious, and certainly not because it’s blog-worthy. Most of the time, that is.

While on our NYC Nate Berkus adventure, Emily and I made sure to have dinner at Balthazar. After five calls to the ridiculous reservations line, we finally found a time that worked for us. We were both slightly overly excited for our meal there, but it was just as good as we hoped it would be – everything we ordered was perfectly executed and delighted our taste buds. In typical Emily & Liz fashion, we planned on ordering a few things and splitting, and as soon as we saw the words “truffle vinaigrette,” we simultaneously agreed that we had to get the Balthazar Salad.

This was a good decision. A really, really good decision. Not only did the salad help to balance out the richness of the Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Tart and the Brown Butter Sautéed Skate, but it was a sort of salad revelation for me. I never would have thought of using a truffle vinaigrette, it just seems a bit cloying for salad, but it works perfectly here. The bitter radicchio, sharp fennel, asparagus, and salty ricotta salata get sort of mellowed out and mingled together by the truffle vinaigrette. I would serve this as a starter, I think it’s a bit much for a meal.

Balthazar Salad, adapted from Orangette.

Serves 6 as a starter
1/2 lb skinny asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
A large handful of skinny green beans or haricots verts, trimmed
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced paper-thin
8 – 12 red radishes, sliced paper-thin
1 head Romaine lettuce, tough outer leaves discarded and cut into ½-inch strips
2 cups spring mix or frisée
1 medium head Radicchio, cut into ¼-inch strips
Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette, to taste (see below)
Wedge of ricotta salata, cut into 1/8 inch slices
1 avocado, sliced very thinly
fleur de sel and black pepper, to taste

Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs mild olive oil
1 Tbs white truffle oil

First, blanch the asparagus and green beans in a pot of salted, boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Both should still be crisp-tender and bright green. Set aside. Go ahead and make the vinaigrette by mixing the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and then vigorously whisking in the oils.

Using a mandoline, slice the fennel and radishes. Very thinly chop your lettuce and radicchio. Mix the lettuces, fennel, radishes, green beans and asparagus together. Toss with vinaigrette. Taste a leaf of lettuce and add salt and pepper to taste. (I found it needed a heavy dose of salt and pepper). Divide evenly among plates, then top each plate with about four slices of ricotta salata and four slices of avocado.

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