My Goals

  • Slightly wilted greens

  • Hearty entrée salad

  • Complex flavors

Spinach is the typical choice for tossing with a warm vinaigrette, but there are plenty of other contenders. I wanted to build a satisfying main-course wilted-green salad featuring a few lettuces that don’t get as much attention: frisée, the curly star of French bistro salad; ruffled escarole; and frilly chicory. I hoped that each (or a combination thereof) would soften under a hot dressing and be a unique, robust canvas for all sorts of bold, flavorful ingredients.

When drizzling a hot vinaigrette over the greens wasn’t enough to wilt them, I wondered if I could take the unorthodox step of warming the greens with the dressing. But I needed a vessel big enough for 10 cups of greens. That’s when I pulled out my roomy Dutch oven. I warmed the dressing in the pot, but by the time I had tossed in all the greens, some leaves were not just wilted but cooked. I had a better idea: Warm up the pot by sautéing at least one mix-in (such as carrots or fennel), let it cool briefly, and then add the greens off the heat. After a few turns of my tongs, the greens had just the right slightly softened texture.

We set out to make a wilted salad hearty enough to be served as a main dish, which gave us an opportunity to work with some less commonly used lettuces with bold flavors, such as frisée, escarole, and chicory.

All that was left was to incorporate other ingredients with contrasting yet complementary tastes and textures: nuts for crunch, cheese for fat and salt, and fruit for sweetness, all tied together with a tangy mustard vinaigrette.

Keys to Success

  • Slightly wilted greens

    A preheated Dutch oven is large enough to accommodate the raw greens and retains heat well enough to wilt the greens without actually cooking them.
  • Hearty entrée salad

    Meats, cheeses, nuts, and beans add protein so that any of these salads can satisfy as a complete meal.
  • Complex flavors

    Combinations of sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, and soft and crispy ingredients perfectly complement these bold bitter greens.