The Best Romaine Salad Ever

with candied walnuts & pecorino

It’s been quite the weekend. Our friend Adrian and his girlfriend Kelly are here visiting after working in Alaska for the summer. It’s always fun to have guests because it gets Kramer and myself out of the house and exploring more than we would normally do when we have nobody to show around. They got in this past Wednesday, so we had to hit up Roberta’s to show them our favorite restaurant. Thursday was Mile End Deli, and Friday was Williamsburg Pizza, followed by a friend’s birthday party on a roof with an awesome view of the city. On Saturday, I did a little baking and Kramer worked on homework while Kelly and Adrian brunched with friends, then we went with Adrian and our friend Danny to Han Dynasty for some Szechuan deliciousness. Wontons in chili oil, dry pot lamb, double cooked pork belly, sausage fried rice and cold noodles in chili oil, alongside a few Tsing Taos was just what we needed before doing a little Saturday night bar hopping – first Forrest Point, then Alaska Bar, then Tutu’s for a DJ set by out friends Lily and Joel. Needless to say, we slept in on Sunday. Like, really slept in, enough so that pizza joints were open when we were ready to eat so we ordered in a pie from Best Pizza for a little comparing and contrasting. We had to get a side of garlic knots, too. You know, for variety.

the best romaine salad everPizza, cauliflower, matzoh ball soup, DJ Lily Vanilli, Prospect Park and Chinese food.

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful fall day in New York, so we headed out to Prospect Park to wander around. Adrian and Kramer started to get jealous of all the people having a seemingly even better time than us due to having the foresight to bring a frisbee, so Adrian randomly asked a guy if he had an extra frisbee. Believe it or not, the guy gave Adrian the frisbee he was using, saying it was really cheap and hard to throw. Undeterred, Adrian and Kramer made quick work of testing out the man’s review. He was right, but they carried on anyway because once you have frisbee fever, you have to toss one around for a minimum of 10 minutes before moving on. We made out way out of the park, then to Zombie Hut for a drink or two, followed by one of my other favorite spots in the city, Pok Pok NY. Our friend Matt joined us, and obviously we ate well – smokey eggplant with shrimp, plenty of fish sauce wings, spicy boar collar, spare ribs, curry noodles with mustard greens, and crispy broken crepe with mussels. After a nightcap at Harefield Road, we went home to watch Saturday’s episode of SNL and have a piece of maple apple cake that I made from Joy the Baker’s new cookbook before calling it an early night, as we all needed a good night’s rest. Tonight I need to hit the gym and sweat out all of the amazing food I ate this weekend, and I definitely need to have a salad for lunch. Sigh – back to reality.

the best romaine salad ever

As previously stated many times before, including in this very post, I adore Roberta’s. Kramer and I even splurged on eating at their sister restaurant, Blanca, last month. It’s not just that I think they make great pizza, but they are always serving absolutely incredible vegetable dishes. From the charred, crispy eggplant with breadcrumbs and roasted, creamy cauliflower that we had this past week, to the delicate carrots with a little marscapone or ricotta that I think of whenever I suggest that someone eat at Roberta’s, their vegetables make me incredibly happy and I try to order as many of these dishes as possible when I visit. Oh, and their ribs – their ribs are a revelation. Roberta’s is able to take really simple ingredients and do a great job at elevating them beyond what anyone would think they were capable of, and I promise that’s not overselling it. If you’re ever in Brooklyn, or New York in general, you have to eat at Roberta’s at least once, order as many vegetables as you can, and you’ll see what I mean. Another example of them taking something simple or commonplace and turning it into something completely new is this romaine salad. It’s got the basics of a Caesar salad – crisp romaine, creamy dressing and a crunchy “crouton”, although it’s unlike any salad you’ve had. First of all, they use candied walnuts instead of croutons, and a roasted garlic dressing with real, whole anchovies. The salad takes a little bit of effort to put together, but I promise you that it’s worth it. Do a little prep on a Sunday to have lunch or dinner ready for the rest of the week, and you’ll thank me later. The dressing itself is worth making, for this or any other salad. I’ve made it a few times since, and it’s never failed to make any salad better. Thank you Roberta’s for making me and my husband love Caesar salad all over again!

the best romaine salad everA dog in a bag and Adrian enjoying some good NY pizza.

the best romaine salad everYour ingredients for the dressing.

the best romaine salad everGet your garlic roasted, first and foremost.

the best romaine salad everFor your candied walnuts, whip your egg whites until foamy.

the best romaine salad everAdd the rest of your ingredients.

the best romaine salad everToss with your toasted walnuts and bake until crunchy.

the best romaine salad everSet aside until cooled.

the best romaine salad everMmmmm…anchovies.

the best romaine salad everGet your dressing ingredients blended, then slowly add in your olive oil.

the best romaine salad everDress your salad, grate with plenty of pecorino and sprinkle with your walnuts.

the best romaine salad everthe best romaine salad ever

The Best Romaine Salad Ever
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 (with leftovers)
My favorite romaine salad ever with candied walnuts and pecorino cheese from Roberta's in Brooklyn.
For the Roasted Garlic Dressing:
  • 1 head of garlic
  • ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a splash for the garlic
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • Juice of half a lemon, plus more if needed
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the Candied Walnuts:
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 packed tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Salad:
  • 2 romaine hearts, ends trimmed, leaves separated
  • ½ cup Pecorino Romano
  • freshly ground black pepper
For the Roasted Garlic Dressing:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a quarter inch off the head of garlic and place the head, cut side up, on a big square of aluminum foil. Give it a splash of water and a splash of olive oil. Bring the corners of the foil up over the garlic to make a loosely wrapped little package. Bake for a little less than 1 hour. Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool in the foil. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of 4 or 5 cloves and set the rest aside for another use (it’s really good just spread on grilled bread), or, if you're like me, you can use more garlic - I probably used about 7 cloves. Leave the oven on for the walnuts.
  2. Put the roasted garlic, the raw clove of garlic, mustard, vinegars, egg yolks, anchovies, and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and blend for 30 seconds or until combined.
  3. While blending, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it’s incorporated and the dressing looks smooth. The stream should be just a few tiny drops at a time, and as you go, you can add a bit more, but don't just pour the olive oil in. You want it to emulsify. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice as desired. The dressing will keep for a week in the refrigerator.
For the Walnuts:
  1. Put the nuts on a baking sheet and roast at 350°F for 4 minutes and then turn the sheet 180 degrees and roast for another 4 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Turn the oven down to 275°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they begin to have body but not until they form soft peaks - you can definitely do this by hand. Add the brown sugar, honey, and about 10 turns of a pepper grinder’s worth of black pepper to the whites, and combine.
  3. Add the walnuts to the mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until they’re all well coated. Use a slotted spoon to spread them on a parchment-lined (or something lined - seriously) baking sheet and sprinkle them evenly with the salt. Do not just pour the walnuts onto the sheet as the egg white mixture will overwhelm the walnuts.
  4. Put them in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes. Then turn the baking sheet and bake for another 12 minutes; the nuts should be dry, not sticky. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. They’ll stay fresh for up to 2 weeks in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.
For the Romaine Salad:
  1. Wash and dry the romaine leaves and put them in a very large bowl - the bigger the better. Pour half the roasted garlic dressing over the leaves, and using your hands, gently scoop the lettuce from the bottom of the bowl up the sides - this is definitely a job for your hands, so put the tongs away. Gently toss until the leaves are well coated, adding more dressing if needed. You'll have leftover dressing, but this recipe is only for 2 salads, so you can have this salad all week if you want.
  2. Divide the lettuce between two plates, and using a hand-held fine grater, like a microplane, grate the Pecorino over each plate. Scatter the walnuts over the two plates and give each a grind of black pepper. Enjoy!


2 Responses

  1. I love a salad that wears cheese.

  2. I love coming across new and delicious salad recipes for me to recreate during the week. You can definitely consider I will be recreating your romaine salad recipe.. it does look like the best ever. Pinned!

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