Serious Eats: Recipes

The Crisper Whisperer: Zuni Cafe's Radicchio Salad

Note: You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays to help us cook through seasonal surplus with ease.

[Photographs: Carolyn Cope]

Ever since my inaugural trip to Zuni Cafe in San Francisco with my sister last month, I've been showing all the signs of a borderline-creepy unrequited crush on the restaurant. Whatever you tell me, I guarantee I'll find a way to relate it to my dinner at Zuni. What, you don't like your hair today? That reminds me of the insanely delicious ricotta gnocchi at Zuni. You know, because in Italian they're sometimes called malfatti, which means poorly shaped... like your hair.

I leaf through the cookbook wistfully three, maybe four times a day. I wish I could tell you I don't sometimes stroke it a little, trying in vain to evoke a response. It's been a month now since our night together, and Zuni hasn't called. Not once. Still, I wait by the phone night after night, turning down invitations, just in case. It's getting downright embarrassing, and everyone can see that. Everyone except me.


This salad, like all of Zuni's food, is the ideal version of itself. Food like this can only be born of love.


Zuni had our hearts from the minute we sat down. They seated us in view of the bustling, open kitchen on a cozy little bench, next to each other. We soon realized that all the other tables in our section were occupied by couples who knew the servers by name. Oh, my God, they think we're regulars! We took it as highest praise, and as we sipped our cocktails, we were the happiest, proudest couple in the house.

Which was great, until we realized that because we look so much alike, we were that tragic couple where just to see the one is to comprehend the infinite depth of the other's self-absorption. Was it possible Zuni didn't adore us as much as we adored ourselves? Uh, Zuni, I mean. As much as we adored Zuni.

Any doubts we had dissipated instantly with our first bites. Every morsel tasted like the idealized version of itself. No, wait a minute—the idealized version would be the one you haven't heard snore yet, or seen in its B-team underwear, the one born of a creepy unrequited crush. Zuni's food was the ideal version of itself. And food like that can only be born of love.

Shredded Radicchio with Anchovy Vinaigrette, Bread Crumbs, and Sieved Egg

Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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