A few weeks ago, the Boyfriend and I checked out Andrew Carmellini’s new pasta joint on Bowery, Bar Primi. It was such a cute date spot — great food, with a more relaxed version of the chic atmospheres we have come to expect from Andy. (Carmellini’s other restaurant ventures include Locanda Verde — where the Boyfriend and I once spotted a star-studded table that included Rita Wilson, Brian Williams, and Julianne Moore and I almost died and he barely noticed because omg, the pasta — Lafayette, and the Dutch.)
It was a really lovely place to have dinner — great views over the Bowery, and food that managed to be both surprising and familiar. To illustrate: I think Bar Primi might be a perfect spot for our inaugural double date with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend. It’s that kind of spot. (Ed. Note: We have not technically scheduled a double date with Chrissy and John but we all live in the same neighborhood and we all love food and I just really think we would get along great and be best friends in no time.)
Also, we should get this out of the way before things get awkward (more awkward? sorry, guys), because I had the best tiramisu of my life at Bar Primi. The lady fingers were positively dripping in espresso.
I know, I know, y’all are all like, “why is she telling me about swimsuit models and tiramisu when I’m looking at that salty chopped salad? That salad has nothing to do with all of me and decadently over-soaked cake.” So here it is: Chrissy wants to become a soup master and I’m prettyyyy good at soups (here and here WHY ARE YOU DOUBTING ME?) so we’re basically soup soulmates who just haven’t found each other yet. Also, the tiramisu at Bar Primi was so good, I’m not going to try to recreate it. At least not yet. (These italics might seem excessive, but it was amazing. I spoke only in italics all through dessert and our entire walk home after dinner.)
For now, I’m happy knowing where to find my favorite tiramisu, and where to take friends (or victims of passive internet stalking) who want to try something incredible. If I try to make the tiramisu at home, I’m not going to get there. The cake was amazing, but I can’t quite re-capture the taste in my mind. So I will just have to go back and try it again. Maybe with Chrissy and John? (And then it will just be our double date spot and we’ll be all, “Oh, Andy! A regular table for us? Just four great friends who all happen to love your tiramisu? You shouldn’t have!”) Anyway, the point is, a tiramisu recipe is in the works over here at leightogreato. If anyone has a grandma’s recipe kickin’ around that they are dying to see published to tens of my family members, send it my way!
So setting aside the tiramisu and potential double date, the other absolute stand-out from our dinner at Bar Primi was the Sal’s Antipasti Salad. I’ve done some light googling and I can’t figure out who Sal is. But, unlike that elusive tiramisu, the basic concept of Sal’s salad can be easily replicated at home. It was fantastic and refreshing — crunchy and light but still salty and hearty. And let me tell you, in the weeks since we visited Andy’s new spot, I have tried to replicate Sal’s salad more than a few times. The mix I have landed on is nutty and crunchy (toasted walnuts, raw red onion) but salty (prosciutto, cheese) and tangy (pickled cucumbers, artichoke hearts) and fresh! (lettuce, radicchio, roasted tomatoes, basil). Every bite is different, each individual ingredient is tasty, and the way the flavors and textures come together in each bite is interesting and surprising.
I’ve found that the key is to chop everything into really small pieces — you want at least 3 of the ingredients in every bite, so if you have a big ol’ hunk of radicchio, you won’t get anything else (or whatever else you get might be overwhelmed). So chop the ingredients small and stock the salad with antipasti that you like — I didn’t use olives, but they would have worked well. And artichokes hearts are one of the most beloved ingredients in the leightogreato pantry, but I think roasted red peppers could have worked very well here in their place. Also, maybe cornichons? Different iterations of this salad will keep showing up in my kitchen all summer.
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- ½ c. raw walnuts
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- 1 head radicchio lettuce
- 5-6 artichoke hearts (I used about half of a small jar of hearts)
- ½ red onion
- 10 basil leaves
- ¼ lb. thinly-sliced prosciutto
- ¼ c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- White vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice grape tomatoes in half and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with about 1 T. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake while you chop the rest of the salad ingredients, about 20 minutes. Just keep an eye on them -- they should whither and caramelize on the edges. That's when they're best! But if you're hungry, don't wait for them to get all the way there. They'll be great even after a few short minutes in the oven.
- While the tomatoes roast, chop the cucumber into bite-sized chunks. Sprinkle with salt and a lot of pepper and pour white vinegar over the chunks until they are just covered. Set aside until you're ready to assemble the salad.
- While the tomatoes roast and the cucumbers marinate, toast your walnuts. Just throw them into a skillet and cook over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until you can smell them. You want them to brown lightly, but not get black. Keep a close eye on these and toss them frequently -- they will go from nicely toasted to blackened very quickly. Once they are browned (and the yummy walnut oil is flowin') chop them roughly and set aside.
- Rinse and chop the lettuces. You want to chop them fine enough that you won't wind up with any huge bites. There is a lot going on in this salad -- the smaller the pieces, the more you'll be able to get mixed into each bite. Put the lettuce into your serving bowl -- you can build the salad in there and then toss when it's all come together.
- Roughly chop the artichoke hearts, mince the red onion, and chiffonade the basil (for a photo step-by-step on chiffonade, see this post on turkey meatballs where I chiffonaded mint -- different herb, same principles). Chop the prosciutto into bite-sized pieces and separate them all out with your fingers -- you don't want the meat all stuck to itself.
- Scoop the cucumbers out of the vinegar, and save the salt-pepper-vinegar mix.
- In a large bowl, combine roasted tomatoes, pickled cucumber, walnuts, lettuce, raddichio, artichoke hearts, onion, basil, and prosciutto. You can toss it now, or wait until after you've made the dressing.
- Use about 1-2 T. of the reserved cucumber pickling liquid. Combine that liquid with 1 t. of mustard and 3 T. olive oil in a lidded jar (or small bowl) and shake (or whisk) until fully combined. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Top with grated cheese and serve!