I was absolutely, completely convinced that someone would buy me the Frankies Spuntino cookbook for Christmas this year. Not only was it on my gift guide, but it's a cookbook chock-full of recipes from my new favorite restaurant, one to which I have dragged pretty much every single person who buys me Christmas gifts on a regular basis.
But, no. No one did, most likely because they all assumed someone else would. And so I found myself ordering said cookbook last week, in no small part so that I could make the Frankies' escarole, red onion and walnut salad at least once during Meatless Week. Frankly, I can't believe it's taken me this long to tackle my favorite Frankies salad in the comfort of my own home.
Because, friends, believe me when I tell you: this is one freaking delicious salad. I was first introduced to escarole via my college's ever-present chicken escarole soup, and so I always assumed it was the kind of green that must always be cooked, preferably on low heat for an obscene length of time.
But, no! Turns out escarole (aside from its bitter, tough outer leaves) is a sweet, crunchy delight - somewhat akin to a silkier version of romaine. Sounds amazing, right? And Frankies treats it just right, tossing it with sliced red onion and crumbled walnuts, and dressing it in a walnut dressing spiked with just a touch of honey. They top the whole thing off with shaved pecorino, which lends the proceedings a bit of funk.
So. Freaking. Good.
I made it Sunday afternoon while my gratin dauphinois (recipe to come) browned up in the oven. It paired beautifully with the rich potato goodness, and it makes me exceedingly happy that I can now enjoy my favorite wintertime salad any time - no trip to the Lower East Side and/or Carroll Gardens required.
Escarole Salad with Red Onions and Walnuts
Adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual
For the dressing:
1/4 cup walnut halves, crushed
1 tsp. honey
1 tbs. walnut oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbs. water
2 tbs. sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
For the salad:
1 small head of escarole
1/2 cup red onion, sliced as thin as you can manage
1/2 cup walnuts, crumbled by hand
1/4 cup prepared dressing
1/2 tbs. walnut oil
1/4 cup loosely packed Pecorino Romano cut into curls with a vegetable peeler
Prepare the dressing:
Combine all ingredients in either a blender, or, if you want to use an immersion blender, in a tall, narrow container (I used a tall Tupperware container.). Puree the dressing until it's emulsified. The texture of the dressing should be uniform and silky.
Use the dressing immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Prepare the salad:
Discard the dark green outer leaves of the escarole. Core the head and wash the remaining leaves in cold water. Spread on a tea towel to dry, or pat dry with paper towels. Chop or tear the leaves into roughly bite-sized pieces.
In a large bowl, toss the escarole with red onions and the walnuts. Dress the mixture with the walnut dressing and the additional walnut oil, tossing well with your hands to ensure that the salad is evenly and lightly dressed.
Divide the salad between the plates. Garnish with the Pecorino and a few turns of black pepper.