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New Year, New York

Slowly but surely, I am, it seems, taking up residence at 30,000 feet. Though I’m no jetsetter, income-wise or otherwise, my 2005—or the last eight months of it, anyway—was punctuated by take-offs and landings. The airplane has become a central part of my personal geography. Falling in love with a New Yorker will do that to a Seattlite, and to her credit card. It’s been a big year for us both.

I write this from seat 17F, somewhere between Newark and Seattle, with poppy seeds from an Absolute Bagel still stuck in my teeth. It was a full weekend to end a full year: we sampled pretzel croissants at City Bakery, slurped down hot apple cider with my old friend Elizabeth at Elephant & Castle, and shared pan con tomate with lovely Luisa at Bar Carrera; and on New Year’s Eve, we toasted with French 75s and French fries at Balthazar. But frankly, when we weren’t sampling, slurping, sharing, and toasting, we were plodding through the rain and feeling pretty sniffly and sick, Brandon with body aches and me with a cold. Aside from the brief rustling of my feather-ringed dress, ours was a fairly quiet New Year. But minor disappointment aside, we did do the whole in-sickness-and-in-health thing pretty nicely, and it bodes well, I think, that we share a taste for tangerine-flavored Emer’gen-C.

But now it’s back to Seattle I go, back home, a concept that grows in complexity with each crisscrossing of the country. It’s difficult, no doubt, but if it weren’t, these take-offs and landings might not be so spine-tinglingly delicious, or bring with them so many stories. And as you and I both know, that’s where the meat is.

May 2006 bring, dear reader, health and happiness for us all. May our kitchens be warm and our knives sharp, and may our plates be always pleasantly full. When the instance requires, may our travels be safe—and someday, if I may beg on my own behalf, one-way.

Balthazar Salad, Slightly Bastardized
Adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook

Since he first tasted it a few years ago at New York City’s Balthazar, Brandon has made the Balthazar Salad one of his easy at-home standbys, and with good reason. It brings together a delicious balance of delicate and hearty flavors and textures: sweet green beans and bitter radicchio, bright fennel and dark, earthy truffle. Brandon first made this salad for me one warm night last May, and as fate would have it, that dinner would mark a pivotal moment in our relationship. I suppose it could have been the heat, but immediately after forking up the last bite, I climbed into his lap and, with only the slightest pang of terror, declared my love.

Luckily, I was a bit calmer by this past Saturday, when I had the pleasure of sampling this salad at the site of its invention.

The following quantities make a good-size salad for two—enough for a very satisfying dinner, preferably with a hunk of crusty bread and a slab of cultured butter. I find this kind of meal perfect for recovering from the holidays—or, really, any day of the week. We have left the quantities of romaine, frisée, and radicchio purposely ambiguous, because any proportion of the three is delicious. Just prepare enough greens to have a couple of handfuls each, and dig in.

¼ lb skinny asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
A handful of skinny green beans or haricots verts, trimmed
A dozen or so thin strips of lemon zest
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced paper-thin
A half-dozen red radishes, sliced paper-thin
Romaine lettuce, cut into ½-inch strips
Frisée, ripped into bite-size pieces
Radicchio, cut into ¼-inch strips
Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette, to taste (see below)
4 ¼-inch slices from a wedge of ricotta salata, cut into matchstick slivers
1 small raw beet, washed, dried, and cut into matchstick slivers
A few thin slices of avocado (optional)
Maldon salt or fleur de sel, as needed

First, blanch the asparagus, green beans, and lemon zest. Fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add a pinch or two of salt, and add the asparagus. While the asparagus is cooking, make an ice bath by filling a medium bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Cook the asparagus until it is bright green and barely crunchy, about 3-4 minutes; then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the spears to the ice bath. Add the green beans to the boiling water, and cook them until they are bright green and barely crunchy, about 3-4 minutes. Remove them to the ice bath with the asparagus. Finally, add the lemon zest to the pot of boiling water, and blanch the strips for 1 minute before removing them to a cutting board. Blot the zest dry with a paper towel, and mince it finely.

Remove the asparagus and green beans from their ice bath, dry them well on paper towels, and place them in a large salad bowl. Add the fennel, radishes, romaine, frisée, and radicchio, and toss to mix. Add vinaigrette to taste and toss again to coat each leaf and green with a thin sheen. Serve, topping each portion with a few fingersful of ricotta salata, a few slivers of beet, and a slice or two of avocado, if you like, and cap with a light sprinkling of minced lemon zest. Season with salt to taste.

Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette
Adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook

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

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the olive and truffle oils, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the dressing is thoroughly emulsified. The vinaigrette will keep, refrigerated in a sealed container, for one week.


Blogger tara said...

A salad to fall in love over ... could there be a more sterling recommendation? Happy New Year to you and Brandon, my dear! I'm glad to hear that some sniffles did not dampen the joys of the holiday.

5:59 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger amylou said...

Ah yes, the one-way ticket. You know, Molly, I came to Sweden on a round-trip ticket and after a year and a half of having it hanging over my head (having changed the date), I finally let it go. It was the best flight I never took.

Sending you guys lots of long-distance empathy until that one-way trip.

6:13 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

Happy new year to the both of you!

6:44 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger pomegranate said...

I love it. I just love it.. Thanks again for allowing us to partake in these fantastic nibbles and morsels of your life, your love, your kitchen.

7:18 AM, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Well, I have to say that the description of Brandon's Balthazar salad certainly lived up to my expectations of what you two would be eating together after I said goodbye on Monday evening. An adorable couple, to say the least! May 2006 be full of good things for both of you, and yes, a one-way ticket SOON.

8:35 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Happy New Year Molly! Good luck with everything!

8:45 AM, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous Sher said...

Ahh, Molly--thank you for sharing that with us. As always, it was such a pleasure to read. And I do think that the shared taste for Emer’gen-C. is HIGHLY significant! :):):) The recipe looks delicious, and will help me with one of my resolutions to eat more fennel.

9:14 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Tara, I never thought that a salad could elicit such strong emotions from me, but in the right company, yes, this is seriously swoon-worthy stuff. It veers toward dangerous, even! Happy New Year to you and S, my dear.

Amy, wise veteran of long-distance love, I'm delighted to have your counsel and your empathy. Until I get that one-way ticket, I know who to call--aside from Brandon, that is. Hugs to you and Erik.

Happy New Year to you too, Zarah! It's good to see you back in the blogosphere.

Pomegranate, thank you for giving me a reason to offer these nibbles and morsels! Orangette would have died of malnutrition ages ago if it weren't for the love of its dear readers. Cheers to a delicious New Year!

Luisa, it was such fun to meet you, ma cherie! If and when that one-way ticket comes, you can expect to find me at your door--and I dare say that a few more glasses of cava will be in order.

Thank you, foodiechickie! All the best to you.

Sher, I can't think of a better New Year's resolution than to eat more fennel! I'll toast to that! You're clearly a woman after my own heart. Happy New Year.

9:17 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Michèle said...

Happy New Year to you and your non-meat eating fella, my friend! Im sure it will be a fabulous year for your both. Looking forward to another year of soaking up your words and recipes!

10:00 AM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger s'kat said...

What a truly beautiful note to hang on the tail end of 2005. You're both very lucky people!

Here's to the future, and the best of wishes for 2006.

10:18 AM, January 05, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

That one-way trip is bound to happen soon - just keep in mind that the longer you wait for it, the more precious it will be. Happy New Year, dear Molly, and here's to another year of your magnificent food and even more magnificent storytelling!

3:29 PM, January 05, 2006  
Blogger Kristen said...

You've just done something very bad by mentioning City Bakery's pretzel croissants :) ... I live near City Bakery and I can taste them right now ... I can't wait to get out of work!

4:14 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Michele, happy New Year to you and your fella! I wish I could hop over and help you work on your resolutions by polishing off some of those beautiful scallops you just wrote about, with rosemary butter and mash! It's going to be a good year indeed.

Thank you, s'kat! All the best to you and DucCat in 2006.

Thank you, dear wise Melissa. I'll drink to that!

Kristen, I wish I had a City Bakery near my apartment! Damn, I might have to start a campaign for a Seattle outpost.

10:33 PM, January 06, 2006  
Anonymous mav said...

nothing better than writing from a plane. what a lovely entry ... so glad you are in love! :)
p.s. it's so cool that you're one of the top food blogs. i of course AGREE! hugs hugs hugs, mav

5:48 PM, January 08, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Aw, mav, thank you! Hugs hugs hugs to you and R!

10:19 PM, January 09, 2006  
Blogger Gourmetish said...

Just came across your blog tonight--it's great! I wanted to wish you luck in your long distance trials and tribulations. My husband and I did that for several years and are finally together. It's worth the trouble! Thank goodness for technology, right?

12:52 AM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, Gourmetish, for your good wishes and good thoughts! I know it's only a matter of time, but sometimes that time goes so s-l-o-w-l-y. Cheers to you and your husband for making it through those trials and tribulations - and congratulations to you on your new food blog!

10:43 PM, February 01, 2006  
Blogger AJ--Words to Chew By said...

This was an awesome salad. We scarfed it down and went for seconds immediately.

9:45 AM, February 03, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

AJ, "awesome" is really the right word for this salad. So glad to hear that you tried it and approve!

4:17 PM, February 10, 2006  

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