There are lots of things I have out at restaurants that I only wish I had the ability...and the recipe...to recreate at home. A few years ago a new restaurant opened here in PDX and absolutely took off. Nostrana was the embodiment of two couples dreams of what an Italian restaurant that used only the best ingredients, most sourced locally, could be. And it was, and remains, really good. I think it was on my first visit where I had their version of a Caesar salad, which seemingly every restaurant does, but few do well. The Nostrana version, which has become an iconic menu item for local foodies, gets huge points for creativity in a dish that doesn't usually reward any sort of exploration, uses radicchio instead of the traditional romaine. I was kind of skeptical the first time. But one bite in I was hooked, and it became a must have dish on every visit. The dressing was perfectly pungent, the radicchio was fresh, crisp, and unusually for this particular cabbage relative, not at all bitter. How they accomplished that I had no idea, until.....
So I'm sitting at the kitchen table one day about two years ago, and reading our local paper's woefully inadequate food section, flipping through the pages with growing disinterest, and there it was. I couldn't believe it! The Nostrana salad. All the secrets revealed!! Now I could have the same sublime pleasure at home without having to go out and search for it. Best of all, I could share with friends like I did at Denise's birthday dinner this last Sunday, where I got reactions like "Oh my god, is this the Nostrana salad?!" Yeah, it has a bit of a reputation. But the best part? I get to share the legend with all of you..............
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Lori di Mori's Nostrana Salad
makes 6-8 servings
note: Soaking the radicchio in ice water sweetens and crisps it, and takes out the bitterness. Nostrana chef Cathy Whims says that people who say they don't like radicchio love this salad.
2 large heads radicchio
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 or 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 egg yolks
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups cubed (3/4") focaccia or other open-textured rustic bread
1.4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon (total) chopped fresh sage and rosemary
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
The dressing: garlic, anchovies, and more euphoria inducing ingredients!
1-Break the radicchio into 1-1/2" pieces and soak in water with a few ice cubes for 2 hours
2-Make dressing: In a mortar and pestle grind the garlic with a pinch of salt; add to blender or food processor along with vinegar, white wine, mayonnaise, anchovies, and egg yolks. Begin processing, then drizzle in olive oil until the dressing is completely emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3- Make croutons: Preheat oven to 375*. Bake the bread cubes on a large baking sheet until toasted all over, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the herbs, cook until fragrant. Turn off heat, Add croutons and toss well. Let cool.
4- Drain the radicchio, spin well in a salad spinner and place in a large salad bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat well, add croutons, then shower generously with grated cheese.