The Chef's Take: Winter Greens Salad, Caroline Fidanza

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With her out-of-the-box approach to salads and sandwiches, all of which put seasonal vegetables to delicious use, Caroline Fidanza has earned a cult following among the food world's cognoscenti in New York City, where she is based. At Saltie, her Brooklyn sandwich shop, wholesome creations like the Clean Slate, a sandwich where hummus, bulgur, pickled vegetables and yogurt get held between Indian naan bread, are as tempting as the sinful sandwiches, like the Balmy, which pairs chicken liver pâté with sliced ham and mayo.

"Mainly, I think about what I want to eat," she says of her culinary process. "Sometimes that falls within the healthy category, sometimes not so much. Over the past five years, though, I've definitely thought more about vegetables. As I've moved along as a chef," Fidanza says, "I have thought more about healthy foods."

At Little Chef  (in the new Gotham West Market), where salads are the focus, Fidanza's evolution has resulted in dishes that have clients lining up well before the lunch hour rush. This recipe, a winter staple, pairs tart radicchio leaves with wilted, warm greens, crisp pears and pickled raisins. Crunchy, spicy, sweet and savory, it's a dimensional yet simple salad that provides insight into the playful, lively handling of vegetables for which Fidanza is known.

Winter Greens Salad

Serves 4
1 bunch treviso radicchio
Walnut oil or another nut oil, to season
Maldon sea salt, to season
Sherry vinegar, to season
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small bunch kale, stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces
½ cup strained pickled raisins (recipe below)
2 ripe pears, thinly sliced
½ cup toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts

Wash and thoroughly dry the treviso. In a large bowl, lightly toss with walnut oil, sea salt and a small splash of sherry vinegar.

Set a heavy, medium skillet over high heat. Slick pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and add kale to pan. Sauté until greens just start to soften, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer sautéed greens to bowl with treviso. Toss in pickled raisins, pears and chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle extra nut oil over top and sprinkle with salt.

Pickled Raisins
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
¾ cup water
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked off
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar

Toast the mustard seeds in a small pan until they pop. Add the water and then all of the other ingredients. Simmer on low until syrupy, about 10 minutes. Either use right away or let cool and store in refrigerator.

Kitty Greenwald is a Brooklyn-based food writer and recipe developer. She eats a lot for work and pleasure. Her column Slow Food Fast appears in the Wall Street Journal.

Photo by Miranda Van Gelder

Portrait courtesy of Little Chef
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