Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lupa's Salads: cavalo nero with guanciale or escarole salad

Lupa is one of our absolute favorite restaurants, and I've tried to copy some of their dishes at home a few times. My most recent endeavor was their Cavalo Nero, aka black kale, aka dinosaur kale, aka lacinato kale, salad. With guanciale, of course. It's important to use this type of kale, since it's served mostly raw, being only slightly wilted by the hot pork fat, and regular kale is tougher and really should be cooked more. I started with recipes from here and here.

I didn't have the guanciale, so I used some Nueske's bacon. It was quite easy, simply brown the bacon, then dress the raw kale with lemon juice and the bacon drippings, with perhaps some salt and pepper and some hot pepper flakes if that's your thing (as it is mine.) I tossed some minced garlic in with the bacon when it was almost done as well. Oh, and I also added some thinly sliced raw celery as suggested by one of the recipes referenced above for some texture. The first time I tried making this it just wasn't quite right. The problem? You guessed it, not enough bacon. Second try did the trick, although it could have probably used slightly more still. Really depends on how much fat renders out of the bacon, I think my chunks were pretty lean, so I suggest cooking extra. Worst case you've got extra bacon; I suspect you can find a use for it. Speaking of that, I instituted a bacon rule in our place which is as follows: if either of us cooks bacon as an ingredient, e.g. for my wife's artichoke dip, the cook must cook extra bacon since it is a certainty that the sounds and aromas produced will make me hanker for a taste.

Sorry for the crappy pic. Here's something that should make up for it. I was just going to include a pic, but I was enchanted by the sound so I thought I'd share (or tease?) a video with you. Sorry I can't post the smell also.

The other salad I love at Lupa is their escarole salad with red onion, walnuts, and pecorino. It's really brilliant, and either of these salads can serve as a light meal in their own right. On this one I was flying blind on the dressing, although I think I've come up with a workable facsimile. May not be the same, but it's good enough to get requested by those who've tried my version. I make the dressing with 2 parts good extra-virgin olive oil, 1 part apple cider vinegar, a bit of dijon mustard to emulsify, and a dollop of honey for some sweetness, since the escarole itself has a bitterness to it. And of course salt and pepper. As when making a proper pasta, be careful not to overdress, the escarole should be just lightly covered by the dressing.


  1. Hey, there! I'm going to try to make the wonderful cavalo nero salad (which I've also had at Lupa) and may not have much of an opportunity to test it out. I was wondering: how much kale do you consider to be a serving? How much lemon juice do you consider advisable?



  2. Hmmm, difficult to say, I'd guess maybe a typical bunch a kale will yield 4 or 5 servings? But it really depends on how it will be served, as a starter, or a side? Sometimes my wife and I make one of these as a main course and call it dinner. One thing I will say is that on the many occasions we've made the kale, we very rarely have leftovers it proves so popular.

    On the lemon, again, it depends, sorry. You use it to add acid to offset the bacon fat, so all I can say is add it to taste. I think one lemon should be plenty though, it's not like you need to stock up.

    Also, if you are making it this time of year sliced apple makes a nice alternative (or addition) to celery for texture.


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