People often ask me about my recipe development process. Sometimes the inspiration comes from blogs, restaurants, cookbooks, or magazines. But more often than not, I have an idea in my head that I just can’t shake. I don’t know how it got there, or if the end result will taste good – and I don’t know if it already exists out there in the world – but I just have to have at it. That was the case with this bagna cauda vinaigrette.
I pictured a thick, pungent, funky dressing and lots of sturdy rustic vegetables to stand up to it – not unlike a traditional bagna cauda appetizer, but served as a salad instead of with crudites. When I started researching, I found out, without much surprise, that Mario Batali had already thought of this. Great minds, Mario. Great minds. But I saw that he used heavy cream in his dressing, no doubt to subdue all the funky flavors and give it some richness.
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of creamy dressings. Unless, of course, the creaminess comes from mayonnaise, in which case, I’ll take a bathtub full please. But I liked where his head was at. Since I was trying my experiment on my mother, who is dairy-free, but for some reason not butter-free, I decided to try mellowing the vinaigrette with a little melted butter instead of cream. Streaming in olive oil followed by butter felt a little unnatural and unnecessary, but the result was positively luscious – worth every ridiculous tablespoon.
Since the dressing ends up slightly warm due to the butter, it makes for a perfect fall salad doused all over raw kale, which could use a little wilting action. Serve as a side, or even as a nutrient-packed main course for anyone who, like my mother, gravitates towards rabbit food.
Kale Salad with Bagna Cauda Vinaigrette
- 1 pound Dinosaur or Red Russian kale
- 1 cup bagna cauda vinaigrette recipe follows
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted nuts pecans, pine nuts, cashews, optional
Remove the thick stem from the center of the kale by carefully tearing away the bottom part of the leaves and then pulling up along the stem. The leaf should come away in tact, missing the center when the stem once was.
Stack the kale leaves with the largest at the bottom, smallest at the top. Roll the leaves width-wise into a cigar. Turn the roll over so that the opening is touching the cutting board. Thinly slice the cigar – the result will be beautiful ribbons of kale.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale ribbons together with the dressing. Taste for seasoning and serve with nuts sprinkled on top, if using.
Bagna Cauda Vinaigrette
In a small food processor or blender, combine the anchovies and oil from the tin, capers, garlic, and lemon zest and juice. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.
Add the olive oil to the processor and puree until emulsified. Stream in the hot melted butter and pulse a few more times until combined. Taste for seasoning - the anchovies and capers can be salty, so you don’t want to add more until the end.
To serve, toss vinaigrette with raw kale, escarole, or spinach. Or serve alongside raw vegetables as a more traditional dipping sauce. Dressing can keep for up to a week in the fridge. Reheat slightly in the microwave before using.