Tag Archives: Melissa Clark


29 Oct

“Are those people eating butter?”

City Hall Fountain

It was a forthright question, spoken in a unmistakable voice, with a tinge of theatrical horror and a dash of impish glee. I turned to look at the people, and yes, it did appear that they were eating butter, with gusto and glee, in many different flavors and varieties.

I turned to the man who had asked the question and was a little shocked to see a certain gentleman known for his way with lardo, pancetta and other fats, wearing his signature clogs, laughing and looking a bit scandalized. Then the proprietor of the stand put us all at ease. He said that no, in fact, they were not eating butter, rather that it was finally cold enough for him to put out samples of his farm’s ice cream for the masses.

Battery Park Irises

The Boy and I (still giggling) payed for our dairy products and began scouring the market for something to star in the evening’s risotto. We had initially planned on a roasted mushroom and blue cheese risotto, but, alas, the mushroom guy wasn’t there. So we made a few passes through the stalls, me searching for something a little different, the Boy, bravely restraining his annoyance with the crowds and the rain. Finally, I settled on some ugly, grungy roots. Salsify.

Salsify looks like a cross between a dirty parsnip and a gnarly mandrake. It’s long and thin, can have legs and noses and other anatomical protruberances and is a bitch to clean. The cleaning is worth it however, as once it is cooked, it has the most delicate, etheral aroma and a silky smooth texture.

Salsify is otherwise known as Oyster Plant and was very popular in early American cookery (the Shakers were especially fond of it). But why Oyster Plant? Because some people think it tastes like the briny bivalves. Me? I think it’s got more of a jerusalem artichokes meet hearts of palm thing going.

Bay Ridge Waterlillies

To accompany the risotto I had settled on Melissa Clark’s Tuscan kale salad from last week’s NY Times dining section. In fact, I had settled on making this salad on Wednesday morning, but apparently so had many other commuters, because by the time I arrived at the greenmarket every single stand had sold out of lacinato kale. I was not to be thwarted on Saturday though, and so I hedged and went to the super-bodega aka Gracefully on Avenue A where I knew I could find lacinato kale.

Raw Lacinato Kale Salad

Sadly, I hedged wrong. I paid nearly $7 for two bunches in the East Village when I could have gotten those same two bunches at the greenmarket for $3. Sometimes it pays to hedge, sometimes it doesn’t. But you know what? I don’t care. Because I’ve still got another bunch in the fridge waiting to be made into this salad again tonight, because you know what else? It’s that good. She’s right, ugly is beautiful.

Raw Lacinato Kale Salad, Salsify Risotto

Oddly enough, upon finishing the risotto and testing it for seasoning, I swear I tasted the faintest whiff, just a hint of blue cheese, without my having added a single crumble. I was worried that the cheese, a real stinker from Cato Corner, might be too much for the delicate salsify, but no, not at all. It turned out to be exactly what the dish needed to elevate it from comforting, yet bland, into the lofty echelons of what could become a classic dish… On any other evening.

Salsify Risotto

Saturday night, the salad was truly the evening’s star. Raw kale? Who woulda ever thunk it!

Head below the jump for No-Oyster Risotto and Raw Kale Salad.

Continue reading