This is the Balthazar Salad, but a picture cannot truly capture its fabulousness. It has a depth of flavor about it – the different lettuces, the asparagus, the ricotta and avocado, even the truffle vinaigrette – which makes it taste both green and earthy at the same time. It’s elegant, too, the way you dress it, plate it then carefully place the creamy bits (avocado and ricotta) on top. And everything served with it seems chic, so it actually makes throwing a dinner party really easy. Just make a roast chicken, a plate of pasta or a piece of fish to follow the salad and you’re done.
The Balthazar Salad has a lot of parts; you have to slice fennel, cook asparagus and steam green beans. But it’s not hard to make.
It’s the house salad at Balthazar Restaurant, the famous New York City hot-spot. Going to Balthazar always feels like a party to me. The space is a pitch-perfect replica of a Paris brasserie, including a faux-smoke yellowed ceiling. There is a lot of theater about what goes on at Balthazar from the white-aproned waiters and the bathroom attendants and the bus boys hurriedly whisking the crumbs off your table. But the most amazing thing about the whole Balthazar proposition is that the food is great – always. If you look around you at people eating they’re almost giddy with being there. They’re having something special to eat, too — a tower of shellfish, a perfectly cooked steak, french fries that make your toes curl. And that happy, exhilarating, out-of-the-ordinary feeling is what I hope to evoke by serving the Balthazar salad. In myself if no one else.
Balthazar Salad adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook
• 1 head of Romaine lettuce
• 1/4 pound of mache
• 1 head of frisée (just the inside, yellow heart)
• 1 head of radicchio (small)
• 1 fennel bulb, sliced very thinly
• 1/4 lb radishes, thinly sliced
• 1/4 lb haricot verts
• 1/4 ricotta salata
• 1 Hass avocado
• 1 quantity lemon-truffle vinaigrette
- Trim, wash, and spin the lettuces together. Toss in a large bowl with the fennel and radishes.
- Trim the asparagus and then peel the base (you don’t have to). Cook in boiling, salted water for 4 minutes — until bright green and just cooked. Reserve the water in the pan.
- Trim the green beans and cook in the left-over boiling water.
- Drain the beans and asparagus and then add to the lettuces. Toss gently.
- Slice the ricotta salata into to 1/8 inch slices. Halve and peel the avocado and slice thinly.
- Dress the salad.
To assemble the salad, set out 6 salad plates. Divide the lettuce, top with avocado and slice of cheese.
(This makes more than you will need; you can keep it in the fridge for a week.)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• Juice of 2 lemons
• 3/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup white truffle oil
Mix salt, pepper, lemon juice. In a steady stream, whisk in the olive and truffle oils.
By Samantha Gillison | Samantha is the author of The Broke and Chic Project, a blog dedicated to thrifty, fabulous dinner party menus. She lives and cooks in Brooklyn, New York.