The Escarole Salad of Your Dreams

March 25, 2015

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: Exactly what you want, when and where you want them.

Today: A reminder to let someone you know teach you a new dish -- and the escarole salad that will carry you through the cold weather. 

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I watch my friend Margi move through my kitchen.

She doesn’t wear an apron. She measures nothing. She crisps the pita with more oil and za’atar than I would ever use. 

She makes her dressing in the bottom of the serving bowl, tossing the salad with her hands, licking her fingers, talking to herself.

I hope people don’t stress and think they have to use buttermilk because you really don’t need it.

Our sons swirl around us, doing everything at once: finishing homework, building knives out of Legos, running not walking in and out of the kitchen, stuffing their faces with Margi’s vinaigrette-drenched escarole. 

We put up our feet and it’s 2001. Martinis on East Village rooftops, sticky summer nights, kisses and crushes and flings. Working so hard, playing so hard. No dinnertimes. No bedtimes. No pediatric vaccination schedules. Just following our whims through New York City.  

The monsters return to paw their way through the salad, picking out the blood orange supremes and radish slices, leaving a trail of hazelnuts down the hall.

Margi? Martini?

I open the back door and the crisp, foggy air brings us back. To my California kitchen. To her beautiful salad.

Escarole Salad With Za'atar Pita Crisps, Blood Oranges, Radishes, and Hazelnuts

Serves 4

1 large or 2 small heads escarole, coarsely torn
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped
4 radishes, mandolined or thinly sliced
2 medium blood oranges, supremed with juices reserved
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (for the za'atar pita crisps), plus 3 tablespoons for the dressing
6 pieces of pita, cut into 1-inch squares
2 tablespoons za'atar
1 clove garlic, microplaned or very finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons thick balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon smoked (or kosher) salt 
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
Handful parsley leaves

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photo by Phyllis Grant  

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Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.