Posted By bbinns on April 20, 2009Roadfoodie is not a recipe kinda blog. Yes, food is most often its focus, and yet I also like to look beyond, to the personalities that populate the byways and foodways of my travels. But in a career that has spanned twenty-two published cookbooks, I’ve written an awful lot of really good recipes, both for myself (lots for Williams-Sonoma) and for a host of fabulous chefs and restaurants; it would seem churlish not to share a few of the really good ones here. And so it is that I turn my attention away from pork for a time, and alight on another of my beloved ingredients: cheese. (Some of you will begin to sense a fatty theme here. Yepper. Give me mouth-feel or give me death.) Many of the most wonderful cheeses in the lactic lexicon hail from the land of rolling hills, caressing sun, and free-flowing wine where, once upon a time, I spent care-free summer days shopping, chopping, laughing, sipping and chowing down on the fruits of field, stream, and sea.
During this spring of our discontent, when newspapers fall daily and publishing as I knew it seems destined for the remainder bin, those annual summer visits to Chianti seem like a far-off fairy tale. Instead, now, the cypress-dotted hills must come to me, preferably in the form of truffle-scented sheeps’ milk cheese. Although diners will not at first see the earthy, melty cheese hiding shyly underneath the tender greens, its sheepish perfume will herald the imminent arrival of something mouth-altering. As with all the recipes in my last book,
The Relaxed Kitchen: How to Entertain with Casual Elegance and Never Lose Your Mind, Incinerate the Souffle, or Murder the Gueststhis one nods deeply to the convenience of the cook. Amuse your friends! Amaze yourself! Get thee to a good cheesery!
Brigit’s Secret Salad
Mise-en-Place: Make the dressing, cut the cheese, and assemble all the ingredients and tools near the stove. Preheat the oven. Just after the cheese slabs go in, toss the salad. Guests should be seated before you serve for optimal cheese-a-licious effect..
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, pushed through a press
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon or other interesting mustard; cassis mustard would be nice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth (canned is fine)
6 o 8 ounces truffled Pecorino cheese (Pecorino Tartufo)
4 cups loosely packed baby salad greens (about 4 ounces), preferably a spicy blend that includes arugula
In a mixing bowl, combine the two vinegars, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, a generous grinding of pepper. mustard, olive oil, and broth. Whisk together vigorously until thickened and emulsified. Set aside until serving time (whisk again just before adding the greens to re-emulsify, if it has separated).
Preheat the oven to 350F. Assemble the plates, salad greens, and the bowl of dressing near the stove. You will also need a metal spatula to quickly transfer the melted cheese to the plates.
Cut the pecorino into 4 equal slabs and place them on an oiled baking sheet with at least 2 inches between each square. Place in the hot oven and watch closely; after about 5 minutes, the cheese will be nicely runny, but should not be totally liquid. While the cheese is melting, add the greens to the bowl of dressing and toss with tongs until evenly coated with the dressing (this takes more tossing than you might expect).
When the cheese reaches the ideal consistency, transfer one runny slab to each plate with the metal spatula and mound some of the salad on top, hiding the cheese. Serve at once.
(Serves 4; may be increased with impunity)