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