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Appetizers and Hors d'Oeuvres

Romaine Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino From 'Roberta's'

Romaine Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino From 'Roberta's'

[Photograph: Dave Potez]

We've made our fair share of Caesar salads here on Serious Eats over the years. Heck, I've made a few of them. So I'm not exactly breaking new ground here. But until I picked up the Roberta's cookbook, I had never seen a version so austere in appearance and yet bold in flavor.

At its most basic, the salad is simply romaine hearts tossed in a creamy dressing and topped with walnuts and cheese. Yet the dressing alone packs a wallop with its copious anchovies, roasted and raw garlic, and duo of vinegars. The walnuts, crunchy and sweet, sing in harmony with the salty pecorino. And the crisp romaine is the perfect vehicle for it all: the dressing clings effortlessly to its wrinkles and the walnuts are held in its cupped leaves.

Why I picked this recipe: What goes better with pizza and pasta than a crisp, tangy romaine salad?

What worked: Besides getting to slather the leftover briny and sweet salad dressing on just about everything, my favorite thing about making this dish was discovering just how great candied walnuts are in a Caesar-style salad.

What didn't: No problems here.

Suggested tweaks: I wouldn't recommend tweaking anything here. However, you will have leftover dressing and walnuts. I'd recommend eating the walnuts for a snack or serving them alongside a cheeseplate. Put the dressing on anything you can get your hands on. It will work well on any sturdy lettuce in case you'd like to make another salad.

Reprinted with permission from Roberta's by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Romaine Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino From 'Roberta's'

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About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 2
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:About 2 hours
This recipe appears in: Romaine Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino From 'Roberta's'

Ingredients

  • Roasted Garlic Dressing
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) good olive oil, plus a splash for the garlic
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) Dijon mustard
  • 21 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) white wine vinegar
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) sherry vinegar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • Juice of half a lemon, plus more if needed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  •  
  • Candied Walnuts
  • 180 grams (2 cups) walnut halves
  • 2 large (not extra-large or jumbo) egg whites
  • 30 grams (3 packed tablespoons) dark brown sugar
  • 75 grams (1/4 cup) honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
  •  
  • 2 romaine hearts, ends trimmed, leaves separated
  • 60 grams (2 ounces) Pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedures

  1. 1

    To make the roasted garlic dressing: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a quarter inch off the head of garlic and place the head, cut side up, on a big square of aluminum foil. Give it a splash of water and a splash of olive oil. Bring the corners of the foil up over the garlic to make a loosely wrapped little package. Bake for a little less than 1 hour. Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool in the foil. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of 4 or 5 cloves and set the rest aside for another use (it’s really good just spread on grilled bread). Leave the oven on for the walnuts

  2. 2

    Put the roasted garlic, the raw clove of garlic, mustard, vinegars, egg yolks, anchovies, and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and blend for 30 seconds or until combined.

  3. 3

    While blending, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it’s incorporated and the dressing looks smooth. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice as desired. The dressing will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

  4. 4

    To make the candied walnuts: Put the nuts on a baking sheet and roast at 350°F for 4 minutes and then turn the sheet 180 degrees and roast for another 4 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Turn the oven down to 275°F.

  5. 5

    In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they begin to have body but not until they form soft peaks. Add the brown sugar, honey, and about 10 turns of a pepper grinder’s worth of black pepper to the whites, and combine.

  6. 6

    Add the walnuts to the mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until they’re all well coated. Spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle them evenly with the salt. Put them in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes. Then turn the baking sheet and bake for another 12 minutes; the nuts should be dry, not sticky. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. They’ll stay fresh for up to 2 weeks in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.

  7. 7

    To make the salad: Wash and dry the romaine leaves and put them in a very large bowl—the bigger the better. Pour half the roasted garlic dressing over the leaves, and using your hands, gently scoop the lettuce from the bottom of the bowl up the sides. (We don’t recommend using tongs to dress this salad—or any salad. You’ll damage the leaves and you won’t distribute the dressing evenly.) Gently toss until the leaves are well coated, adding more dressing if needed.

  8. 8

    Divide the lettuce between two plates, and using a hand-held fine grater, grate the Pecorino over each plate. Scatter the walnuts over the two plates and give each a grind of black pepper. Serve.

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