Cal Peternell likes to eat the same way our ancestors have for centuries: with vegetables front and center, and meat as a seasoning element. The benefits are manifold—it’s cooking that’s flavorful, first and foremost, but also healthy, economical, and more sustainable.
The former Chez Panisse chef and award-winning author shares that approach in his new cookbook, “Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind Of.”
“It’s a kind of vegetarian diet,” he writes, “eaten by those of us who love vegetables so much that we sometimes honor them with small gifts, bringing offerings of toasted nuts, of salted fishes, and of sweet cured pork bellies.”
The book hones in on its three titular ingredients (and similar substitutions), with recipes like snap pea almondine, roasted pancetta-wrapped asparagus, and artichokes and onions baked with anchovies and bread crumbs.
These ingredients, though small, can be powerful flavor enhancers. Almonds contribute fatty richness and umami; while anchovies and pancetta bring salt, that cornerstone of good cooking, and the multilayered complexity of cured and fermented foods that can only be built with time. When judiciously added, Peternell says, “a little of the right kind of meat goes a long way.”
Bagna Cauda Salad With Optional Truffle Upgrade
Typically at my dinner parties, everyone eats standing around for at least part of the time. People get hungry, smelling enticing smells while they drink and talk in the kitchen, and start tearing into loaves of bread, dipping and smearing, and looking for where to put olive pits and radish tops. Kids’ mouths go green as a gang of them get to work on a bowl of guacamole. If I’ve made bagna cauda, it goes fast too. Bagna cauda—hot fragrant anchovy sauce to dip raw turnips into—might sound, to some, more like the end of the party than the beginning, but my experience tells a different story. Everyone, even the kids, loves bagna cauda.
Sometimes, however, the company isn’t right for dips and we need to eat it, whatever it is, another way. Times like when the guests are awkward with each other, meeting for the first time. Or it might be that it’s too cold in the backyard and we want to come in and sit, and the table is too big for everyone to reach. Or maybe I’m just feeling fancy. So I put this dip on plates, and everybody gets one! It’s more polite, sure, but no less fun, and as a bonus it helps to avoid squabbles and stains.
Makes 6 servings
- 2 almond-size garlic cloves
- Kosher or sea salt
- One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets (10 to 12 fillets), drained
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Good olive oil
- 1 black truffle (optional)
- 1 1/2 pounds tender vegetables, such as white turnips, fennel, carrots, rutabaga, kohlrabi, radishes, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, celery
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (if not using truffle)
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with a pinch of salt until nearly liquid, then add the anchovies and pound to a paste. In a small skillet or saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and anchovy mixture and cook, keeping the heat very low and stirring and mashing the anchovies occasionally, until it all melts together and smells really good, about 10 minutes. Add the black truffle, if using, and keep warm while you assemble the salad.
Using a very sharp knife or mandoline, carefully slice the vegetables as thinly as you can. For some things, like carrots, a vegetable peeler is good for making thin strips. Round shapes should be cut in half and set on the flat side for further slicing. Put the sliced vegetables in a large bowl and dress with salt, the vinegar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss in the parsley if you’re not using truffle. Taste, adjust, and spread onto salad plates or a platter, not piled up, so that the bagna cauda can get everywhere. Spoon the warm bagna cauda over the salad and serve.
From “Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta” by Cal Peternell Copyright 2018. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.