Last week I had the honor of attending a media preview party for the hotly anticipated Italic, newest culinary child of the ELM Restaurant Group, proud parents of wildly popular 24 Diner, Easy Tiger, and Arro, in Austin.
Everyone was there. All the fanciest foodies and the hippest scenesters were in attendance. The location is sleek and elegant, the staff, friendly and courteous, the food varied and bountiful, the drinks flowed freely. It was a smash of a first taste —Chef Andrew Curren and crew produced a spread that has this food town talking. I can’t wait to go back.
The next day, when my stomach first started rumbling for attention, my immediate thought was—THAT SALAD. I must have that salad. In fact, had Italic been open to the public on Thursday of last week, I’d have happily lined up for a seat for THAT SALAD. There was not an off note in the entire menu of offerings the night before, but the salad, because I’m definitely a salad girl, left a mighty impression.
I had, fortuitously, what I thought to be the bones of the dish--a beautiful stalk of brussels sprouts from JBG Organics, a handful of walnuts, and though I believe the dish had pecorino cheese, I had asiago on hand, so that was what I used. I was ready to try to hash it out. So, inspired by that perfect dish from that perfect evening, and the fruit of a little internet research, this recipe from Sam Sifton editor of the New York Times, I set about to play in the kitchen.
SHAVED BRUSSELS SPROUTS SALAD
with walnuts and asiago
1 healthy stalk of brussels sprouts, with greens (see Notes, below)
1/2-1 cup walnut halves
6 ounces asiago cheese, shaved
4 Meyer lemons, juiced
1/2 t dried chervil
a healthy pour of top-quality Italian olive oil
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Wash well, trim, and shave brussels sprouts with a sharp paring knife or mandoline. Roll greens into a tight cigar and shred thinly, crosswise. Leave the smallest sprouts whole. Toss in a salad bowl with walnut halves, asiago cheese shards, chervil, and lemon juice. Pour a few solid glugs of olive oil over, and mix well. (I used my pristinely clean hands to massage the sprouts, break them up, and help them wilt a bit. If that's a bit icky to you, mix them vigorously, cover and allow to macerate for up to an hour.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Brussels sprouts-- for four servings, use about 2 pints of sprouts, or more. If the greens are unavailable, substitute shredded collard greens, or finely shredded greens cabbage-- or no greens at all, with a little more shaved sprouts to make up for the absence.
- Walnuts-- No walnuts? Use chopped hazelnuts. I'll bet those would be good. Almonds in a real pinch. But it's the texture of this salad that really makes it shine, and the walnuts are just perfect, really.
- Cheese-- No Asiago? Pecorino was the original choice. Any hard cheese, like Parmesan would do. Shave it thinly with a cheese plane or vegetable peeler. Or crumble it from the wedge with a fork
- Meyer lemons-- No Meyer lemons? Try regular lemons, but pull back a bit on the juice-- they are more sour than Meyers. I'd zest the lemons to add to the salad to more closely approximate the flavor of a Meyer. You could certainly omit the lemon juice entirely. But, really, any excuse for a lemon in my world.
- Chervil-- No chervil? No worries. Dill might be nice, but use a very light hand. Fresh fennel fronds would be interesting. Maybe even minced celery leaves. Or leave the herbs out entirely.
Last night, I shared the salad with my girlfriends for Sunday Supper, and it filled us up with nothing more than a
Happily, Italic, unlike the season for brussels, will be available to us all year long. Do yourself a favor and make plans to visit Italic as soon as they open to the public. Stay tuned!