The salad. It can be such a simple dish, such an underwhelming component of a meal. Or it can be, in the words of Gjelina chef Travis Lett, “something that doesn’t demand too much attention but at the same time has the ability to inspire if you pause and truly look.” Lett was referring to his Venice, California restaurant when he wrote that sentence in the Gjelina cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2015), but I was reminded of those words when I tasted chef Patrick Kelly’s insalata di stagione at Panzano a couple of weeks ago.
The combo, a collection of baby lettuces, raw and roasted cauliflower, and carrot ribbons, was dressed with a bracing, lingering vinaigrette that caught my attention. I loved the dressing so much, I asked Kelly, Panzano’s newly appointed executive chef, for the recipe.
He obliged and explained that a precise shallot brunoise (or very fine dice) is essential to this very simple and classic vinaigrette. “The flavor from a perfect brunoise made with a sharp knife is so much more clean and subtle,” Kelly says. “Smashing a brunoise of shallot will give the dressing a harsh and aggressive flavor that will hide the inherent sweetness of the lettuces.”
Make a double batch (you’ll end up with about two cups) as it’ll keep in the fridge. If you do so, add the fresh herbs just before serving. Pull it out for Thanksgiving—or just a regular Tuesday night—to brighten up dinner.
¼ cup dry sherry vinegar
1½ tablespoons shallot brunoise
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh chives, sliced
¾ cups extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Combine the vinegar, shallots, and herbs in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.