Recipe: The Not-Leafy Caesar
Some people love to cook during the summer months, when ripe produce doesn’t need much more than a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, but I think winter cooking can be deeply satisfying. Long, slow roasts and cheesy potato gratin burnished at the edges. Piping hot soups, another glass of red wine, and baked goods like brownies just taste better when the weather is cold. Here’s a variation on Caesar salad that we’ve been making often:
The Not-Leafy Caesar
3 or 4 slices good country-style bread
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 small garlic cloves
2 or 3 anchovies, rinsed
1 egg yolk
1 lemon, halved
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, very thinly sliced
Tear the bread into irregularly shaped crustless pieces about the size of an almond or smaller. (Save the crusts for another purpose.) In a large skillet over medium-high heat, toast the bread pieces in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt.
Make the dressing: Using a mortar and pestle or the back of a large knife, pound the garlic, anchovies, and 2 pinches of salt to a smooth paste. Place the egg yolk in a medium bowl and whisk to break it up. While whisking continuously, add a few drops of olive oil. Continue whisking and adding oil by the drop until the mixture thickens, looks sticky, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. While whisking continuously, add more oil, this time in a very thin and slow stream. Once you’ve added about one-quarter cup of oil, squeeze in a little lemon juice to thin the aioli. Add another half-cup or so of oil, still in a very thin and slow stream while whisking continuously. The aioli should be as thick as mayonnaise. Stir the garlic-anchovy paste into the aioli along with enough lemon juice to thin the dressing to your desired consistency. Taste, adding lots of pepper and more salt if needed.
Arrange the sliced fennel and radish on a serving plate. Drizzle on the dressing and toss to evenly coat. Scatter the toasted breadcrumbs over the top and serve.