We hosted our first Light Sunday Supper at Sarello's on Aug. 16, which featured a fresh farmers market salad, our famous red curry scallops appetizer and a cookie plate. The scallops were a guest-favorite when we were open as a full-service restaurant, so we knew they would be a winner. And they were, but the surprise standout of the night was the salad.
Salad, you say? Sure, I love a good salad, but typically not enough to rave about it. However, that's exactly what people did that night, with more than a handful of guests requesting the recipe. So what was it about this salad that raised the bar?
Tony's salad featured a variety of colorful fresh veggies on a bed of hearts of romaine lettuce, and, while it was a beautiful dish, what really made this first-course stand out was the fresh herb dressing that crisscrossed the plate.
For this dressing, Tony chose a variety of three herbs that included sweet basil, chives and fresh parsley. He recommends using herbs with a mild flavor and soft texture, and suggested tarragon and thyme as good alternatives. Parsley is one of Tony's favorite herbs, and you can use either curly or Italian for this recipe. He cautioned against using rosemary for this recipe as it is too strong in flavor and hard in texture.
Tony chose to use rice wine vinegar, as its natural sweetness balances the gentle spice of the chives and brings a lovely brightness to the dressing. Cider vinegar would also work, but Tony advised staying away from white wine or red wine vinegars.
To create the creamy texture, Tony used an egg yolk instead of cream or buttermilk, which brings a subtle richness to the dish and works better at holding the dressing together over time. If you're uneasy about using raw eggs in your food, you can buy pasteurized egg yolks in whole or liquid form, which is what we do at Sarello's.
The secret to a great salad dressing is in the emulsification process, which is what happens when oil and liquid mix. We use a food processor to achieve the best results, and we pulse all the main ingredients together first before adding any oil. Once they are well combined, we turn the processor on and add the oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube, until it is well incorporated and the dressing has achieved a rich, creamy texture, similar to that of heavy cream.
We use vegetable oil for this recipe, as olive oil is too strong in flavor. If the dressing appears too thick, keep the processor on and add a bit of water, one tablespoon at a time, until it achieves the desired consistency.
This dressing is a perfect taste of summer, and you can find these herbs all year long in our local grocery stores. It's also versatile enough to be used as a dip for raw veggies, in sandwiches, or with chicken and fish, particularly, salmon.
Our next Light Sunday Supper is coming up Sept. 13 and will feature Bowtie Provencale, one of our favorite pasta dishes. And although the entrée is definitely the highlight of any menu, we've learned never to underestimate the power of a great first course.
Fresh Herb Dressing
Makes approximately 1 cup
½ cup (loosely packed) fresh chives, roughly chopped
½ cup (loosely packed) fresh sweet basil, stems removed
½ cup (loosely packed) fresh parsley, stems removed (Italian and curly varieties will both work)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2½ tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg yolk, or 1 tablespoon liquid egg yolk - look for pasteurized products
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Place chives, basil, parsley, mustard, vinegar, honey and egg yolk in a food processor and pulse several times until well combined.
Turn the processor on and add the vegetable oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream to emulsify, until the dressing achieves a rich, creamy texture similar to heavy cream. If the dressing appears too thick, add water, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. Add the salt and pepper, pulse again to combine, and taste. Adjust seasoning as desired.
Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week.
Fresh Farmers Market Salad
Serves 6 to 8
2 to 3 heads of hearts of Romaine lettuce, bottom portion cut off and any undesirable leaves removed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 to 2 bell peppers, any color, cut into julienne strips
1 cup purple cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 ear fresh corn, removed from husk, raw
Lay each romaine leaf on a platter, overlapping slightly, until plate is filled. Drizzle the fresh herb dressing all over, criss-crossing from side to side, leaving about a quarter of the dressing for later.
Place the other ingredients on top of the lettuce leaves, from largest to smallest - follow order listed in recipe. Finish with a drizzle of the remaining dressing, serve and enjoy.
Light Sunday Supper
To reserve a table for Sarello's next Light Sunday Supper on Sept. 13, call (218) 287-0238 or email email@example.com.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 10-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and their blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.