Winter Leaves with an Umami Anchovy Dressing

I can see you, through my screen, turning up your nose at the thought of anchovy dressing. But as this pairs perfectly with the colourful leaves that magically appear during these doldrum months, I can hopefully entice you to keep reading….

Right now you can find blush and deep toned lettuces and chicories that are as beautiful as flowers in the markets, greengrocers and supermarkets. The dark purple bitter leaves of radicchio, endive and treviso and speckled castelfranco create a stunning stand alone salad, or combined with the sweeter simple green gem hearts or mache (aka lambs lettuce) for an equally picture perfect and delicious side with this bold umami laced dressing.

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A lot of anchovy hiding happens in my kitchen. I love serving anchovy laden sauces to the unenlightened haters, who simply comment on the delicious unidentifiable flavour of the dish. The aversion, as far as I am concerned, is a juvenile rebellion leftover from some acrid and slightly hairy fishy version  found on a pizza sometime in early adolescence, resulting in a lifetime of abstinence.

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So with all preconceptions aside, I really do encourage you to give this salad and its dressing a try. The combination of the crimson bitter leaves and the sharp salty dressing are the ideal accompaniment to winter comfort meals of roast chicken or fish, or just served with a hearty minestrone and some crusty bread and butter. For a fuller salad, fennel, kohlrabi and the matching citrus hues of blood orange or pink grapefruit are excellent accompaniments, or cheese such as feta or burrata and a few toasted nuts for crunch. (If you are going down the cheese route, I might be inclined to use a lighter dressing of olive oil and a little citrus juice or a more traditional vinaigrette.)

The pink leaves I used here have a relatively short season, so as long as I can get my grubby hands on them, you will see their blush tones on my table. Just don’t mention the secret a*****y umami dressing.

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Winter leaves with an Anchovy Dressing

Inspired by David Tanis

To give you a guide, for a good sized midweek salad to accompany a meal for 4 people, you will need 4 generous handfuls of leaves. We usually use something along the lines of these:

1 head of treviso

1 small radicchio

1 head of tardivo

1 head of castelfranco

3 red endive

2 gem hearts or pink lettuces if you can get your hands on them

a small bunch of radishes or 1 medium sized watermelon radish

 

Dressing:

1/2 small shallot finely chopped

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

4 anchovy fillets, pounded into a paste

2 tsp dijon mustard

salt and pepper

120ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

Make the dressing:

We like to make this first to allow the flavours to mingle before pouring on the leaves.

Mix the shallots together with the vinegar and lemon juice and allow to sit together while you make the salad.

After a few minutes (or just before serving), add the remaining ingredients and mix together.

 

Make Salad:

Tear the leaves into largish sized pieces (people have very particular opinions around the acceptable size of leaves in a salad. Do what makes you feel happiest). Place the leaves in the bottom of a shallow bowl.

Thinly slice the radishes. Scatter over the leaves.

Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the leaves (you won’t need all of it) and toss together. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before digging in, adding more dressing if necessary.