Salad, red wine vinaigrette
You know what I love about you guys? You see this story, and you email me to say, "I know you are totally going to this dinner, and I can't wait to read about it on your blog!"
And then I have to reply and say, "Sadly, I did not get to go to that dinner because I had prior commitments that prevented me from going."
Now that I've seen the menu, I wish I'd said, "F off" to those prior commitments or last-minute-ditched said commitments, and flown to New York to eat some truly amazing food.
Alas, I remained a true patriot, decided to do the hard work of freedom, stayed earnestly dedicated to my country and my people, and forged ahead in this new era, and ... oh, who am I kidding ... I should've gone. I am a dumbass.
Instead, I made salad! WOOOOO-HOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Of course you do. I mean, seriously, we didn't miss anything by not going to that dinner, right? We could just read my old blog, and then read all the posts on this blog, keep flipping back and forth between the two, and it's almost like we were at THAT OTHER DINNER. Only, not even close.
Criminy, that's a lot of roughage. Now, let me say that when I wrote my shopping list for this dish, I didn't really know what nearly 9 pounds of salad greens would look like. But now I know. Yike-a-roonies.
Now comes the fun part. And by fun, I mean TOTALLY NOT FUN. Because I don't own a juicer and refuse to buy one (my kitchen storage space is precious, and I'd never use a juicer for any other reason because I kind of hate juice in general), I had to pulverize all that lettuce in my food processor, squeeze it through chee..... WAIT.
I'm getting ahead of myself.
Really, the reason this was the TOTALLY NOT FUN part is because I bought real salad greens -- not the already-washed and bagged stuff -- so that meant I had to take apart all these bunches, leaf by leaf, and rinse and spin and rinse and spin until they were clean, and then tear the leaves into choppable bits, and process them in what amounted to MORE THAN TWENTY SEPARATE BATCHES in my food processor.
I stopped counting at twenty batches because I just couldn't take it anymore.
BUT I STILL WILL NOT BUY A JUICER because I'm stubborn that way.
I lined two big containers (a glass mixing bowl and a Le Creuset pot) with cheesecloth, dumped each batch of lettuce purée in there, and when I was done, I squeezed the juice from those collective bunches of purée, then combined the juice into one bowl. Then, I strained that combined juice into yet another bowl and added a little salt to taste.
Now, if I'd had a juicer, this step probably would have taken all of four minutes. Instead, because I am annoying and mule-ish, this step took me an hour and twenty minutes. But it was time well spent, because I.... um..... had all these.... um..... like, um.... great thoughts and stuff during that time.... and, um.....
I thought the hard part was over, but no. There was some serious engineering to be done.
The next step involved freezing the lettuce juice after it's poured onto a sheet pan.
I don't know what your kitchen is like, but mine is so ferdunkled. It's an old, old house. Appliances too big for the space allotted, and the freezer door doesn't really open the whole way like it should because the countertops were cut by someone whose business card read Random Chopping Uneven Counterop Guy. So, originally, I thought I'd just pour the liquid lettuce onto a sheet pan and then slide that sheet pan into the freezer.
It's good I have half a brain because I thought, "Huh. Maybe I should make sure this sheet pan fits into the freezer before I go pouring this BRIGHT GREEN LIQUID onto it and then have it not fit, and drop it or tilt it to fit in the freezer, forcing the lettuce juice to run down the inside of the freezer and then all over my kitchen floor, and I will have to immediately sell the house because who the hell wants to clean up all that?"
Sure enough, the pan wouldn't slide straight in, so I rigged a bunch of frozen items in one of the bins to create a somewhat level surface, slid the pan in, adjusted the aforementioned frozen items to ensure a level surface (PEOPLE, I even used an actual carpenter's level to make sure it was even), and then poured the juice onto the pan once the tray as secured.
Next up? The red wine vinaigrette. Thankfully, this did not involve seven million hours of lettuce washing and pulverizing, and instead simply required that I mix some red wine vinegar and salt, and pour it in a shallow pan, so that I could freeze it, as well.
I let these freeze overnight, and finished and served it the next day.
Finishing the dish seemed like it was going to be a breeze, and appeal to the orderly, particular, straight-lined, everything has its place so let me just adjust that three more times freak that I am. To prep for plating, you merely take a fork, turn the points of the tines down onto the surface of the now-frozen lettuce juice and the now-frozen red wine vinaigrette, and drag it across the surface, scraping long lines to raise up the icy goodness like you would with a granita.
It was easy, but wow does it make a mess.
Clearly, the photo on pages 216-217 of the Alinea cookbook shows the righteous fury with which the icy spray of green doom can splatter, but I didn't know that in addition to splattering across my countertops, floor, windows, cupboards, and walls, it was also SPLATTERING ALL OVER MY FACE until I went to the local co-op to pick up some bread an hour later and the cashier stared at me and said, "Whoa. That's a really brave tattoo." To which I replied, "Oh no, that's a zit." To which he replied, "No, the teardrops of green. Is that, like, because you're for the earth?" At which point I muttered something under my breath about "what do you even mean am I for the earth, what a stupid thing to say, am I for the earth, what does that EVEN MEAN" and pulled out my compact mirror and saw that it wasn't just a few drops of green under my eyes, but that I quite resembled The Hulk (Edward Norton! CALL ME!), and scooted on out of there and invested heavily in the Cetaphil Corporation as well as whatever corporation makes mirrors, because who leaves the house without checking to see how they look? Oh yeah. Me.
Back to the scraping, so you can see how it looks:
And now, time to plate.
I spooned 2 large spoonfuls of lettuce ice into a bowl, then topped it with the icy red wine vinegar. I dribbled a few drops of olive oil, added a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and proudly served this to my friends:
So let's recap. We went from this:
Well, we learned the hard way that you kind of need to stir it a bit to mix all the flavors together, otherwise, there's a very good chance you might feel like you took a bite of a vinegarcicle. However, if you stir it and smush it around (which melts it a little, but that's okay), it's a really nice balance. Overall, it's really light and fresh, and tastes really green and healthy. I know for some people that might be a turnoff (healthy = booooo), but I enjoyed it. Come summertime, I'd make this again as a fun course at a dinner party. It's really good.
Up Next: Cheese, in cracker
Resources: Salad greens from Whole Foods, Domaine des Vignes red wine vinegar, Monini olive oil.
Music to Cook By: Azure Ray; Assorted. I have a few of their albums on my iPod, so I just put them on Shuffle and listened. There's no higher praise than to say their tunes kept me from wanting to throw my food processor out the window on batch 17 of the lettuce. So, yay them.
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