By Ronna Welsh of Purple Kale Kitchen Works
Given Al Di La‘s reputation for doing no wrong–ask anyone who eats out in my neighborhood–it’s funny that Anna Klinger, its chef/co-owner, would caution that her Anchovy Vinaigrette might be too simple for a Behind the Scenes entry. It is, in fact, a perfect example of a basic, versatile, but hardly understated pantry item that we like to champion at Purple Kale Kitchenworks. And, of course, it is Anna’s unflashy but keenly finessed cooking that keeps Al Di La’s Italian food on point.
This column explores the restaurant side of mise en place, what we at Purple Kale Kitchenworks use as a model for home instruction. Its aim is to show how restaurants break down a menu item into components that can be prepared in advance for the efficient assembly of a dish, with no loss of quality. In this case, Anna had assembled for me small plates of little potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli rabe, swiss chard stems, and escarole, each to marry with an Anchovy Vinaigrette. All, except the escarole, had been previously, individually blanched in salted water and cooled (occasionally, Anna will dress the fennel, cauliflower, and potatoes while still warm). This vinaigrette is a favorite for Al Di La, and one Anna pairs with egg sandwiches, bitter greens, and aside rich, oily fish.
Anna makes the vinaigrette in batch quantity, but she has adjusted the following recipe for the home cook. Yield: about 2 cups.
Al Di La’s Anchovy Vinaigrette
3 ounces salt-packed anchovy fillets, cleaned, rinsed, soaked in milk, and rinsed again
3/4 ounce garlic
1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon chili flakes
Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend well until creamy. Keeps for several weeks.
For the escarole: Toss whole escarole leaves with a little oil, salt and pepper. Grill until slightly charred and wilted. Transfer to bowl and, while still warm, splash with a little sherry vinegar. Finish with anchovy vinaigrette.
Purple Kale Kitchenworks is unlike any other cooking school. At Purple Kale, Chef Ronna Welsh helps the home cook who loves food but wants to put better, less scripted meals on the table, and do so efficiently and with little waste. Professional chefs use methods and tools to cook creatively and frugally, and often in challenging spaces; Purple Kale’s classes and products help you do the same.