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Romaine calm and carry on

  • PHOTO COURTESY NEW YORK TIMES

To begin your meal, go with something green: a salad of crisp romaine leaves, cloaked in a lemony vinaigrette that’s been flecked with a touch of anchovy.

Though this is a very simple salad, it can be exquisite, especially if attention is paid to every little detail. For the freshest version, use the pale hearts of large romaine heads, or whole baby romaine, removing tough or dark green leaves. (Save the plucked outer leaves to make chopped salad, braised lettuce or to add to a soup.) Or choose packaged organic romaine hearts, available at most supermarkets, but be sure they aren’t old. (Check the bottoms of the heads, the root ends. If they are dark brown, the lettuce has been hanging around too long.)

Fresh lemons, of course. Good fruity extra-virgin oil. And for anchovies, spend a little more, even for the few fillets in the dressing. (Most cheap grocery store anchovies are mushy and fishy-tasting.) And when you toss, go gently.

Romaine salad with anchovy and lemon

Ingredients:

• 1 (3-pack) romaine hearts, or 6-8 heads baby romaine

• 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated, plus 3 tablespoons juice

• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

• 1 garlic clove, smashed to a paste or grated

• 4 anchovy filets, chopped

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

• Chunk of Parmesan, for finishing

Directions:

Prepare the romaine hearts: Cut off the bottoms, and remove a few of the outer leaves from each head. Gently separate the pale inner leaves and refresh in a deep basin of cold water. Drain leaves well, then spin dry, wrap in kitchen towels and refrigerate.

Make the dressing: In a bowl, stir together the lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and anchovy. Whisk in the olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning; dressing should be rather tart.

Put the leaves in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pour the dressing over the lettuce and gently coat the leaves, tossing with your hands. Shave large curls of Parmesan over the salad.

Total time: 20 minutes, serves 6.

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