The jar that I’ve just filled with dressing and covered with a twist of my wrist slips from my fingers and onto the floor. The glass splinters in half, the bottom still cradling a tablespoon or so of the golden liquid, the top still wound to the lid. It has splattered on my bare feet and up my legs.
I crouch to collect shards of glass, dropping them into a paper bag filled with the week’s recycling. I wipe up the dressing with a towel, leaving oily streaks on the floor, on the fridge, on the oven, on the cabinet, under the fridge, under the oven, under the cabinet.
It was three weeks ago yesterday that I learned the news. The news itself isn’t important and it wasn’t really new news, but old news just in a different way.
I found myself in the kitchen with a mortar on the counter and a pestle in my hand. I pounded anchovies – they smelled of the sea, and of briny tears – into cloves of raw garlic, pungent and stinging my eyes. A spoonful of Dijon, tempered with lemon, rounded out with a whisk of olive oil. In the oven toasted a pile of crumbs, rubbed from the heel of day-old baguette against the largest holes of my box grater.
Even as I was, I managed to iron a linen and flatten it on a large cutting board by the window. The mortar in the middle, the pestle just so, surrounded by empty lemon halves and a glass canister of fish filets. I crushed fleur de sel to complete the tableau.
Snap. A photo from the side.
I drizzled dressing over a pile of arugula littered with bread crumbs and Parmesan shavings.
Snap, snap. A few photos standing on a ladder.
I jarred the rest and labeled it with green painters’ tape and a sharpie: “anchovy dressing 5/28”.
You know what happened next.
At first, I tread carefully in the kitchen to avoid stepping on any last few glass splinters. I need to wear shoes when cooking. Then flip-flops. And now, I’m back to socks or nothing at all. Every once in a while, I find a speck of glass. I lift my foot to see a dot of blood. With the flick of a nail, I nudge out the chip and go about my day.
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe for red and green salad with anchovy mustard vinaigrette. I’ve increased the amount of lemon juice to balance out the saltiness; depending on how juicy your lemons are, you may need up to two. Use a decent brand of anchovies packed in oil, but don’t go overboard on the fancy stuff.
I like to use a mortar and pestle – mostly because I have a few and a pestle has a nice heft to it. That said, you can do your smashing with a fork in a bowl. If you want a really smooth dressing, you can even use a small food processor or an immersion blender.
I serve this with peppery arugula; other bitter greens such as radicchio or endive would be nice as well. Add crunch with toasted bread crumbs (use a box grater to make crumbs out of stale baguette, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in a 350°F oven until very brown). Shave some parmesan over the top. Eat immediately.
Makes about ¾ cup
– 6 anchovy fillets
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 T Dijon mustard
– ¼ C fresh lemon juice, more to taste
– ½ C extra-virgin olive oil
– Kosher salt and black pepper, as needed
Smash. Line the bottom of a mortar or bowl with anchovies. Add the minced garlic and using a pestle or fork, smash the fish and garlic into a paste. It’s OK if there are bits of anchovy still peeking out. Stir in the mustard.
Whisk. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly while whisking until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding a bit more lemon juice as necessary to balance everything out if it’s too salty for your liking.