It’s the first day of spring. For a sprightly lunch or dinner dish, how about a spring salad with bagna càuda dressing?
Bagna càuda is a classic sauce from the Piedmont region of Italy. It’s made from olive oil, anchovies and garlic. The name means “hot bath,” since it’s served warm.
Bagna cauda is served with crudités, especially in fall and winter. It’s often part of a Christmas Eve buffet.
In our own version, we add slices of toasted plain and/or baguette to the crudités plate—because bagna càuda is a zesty bread dipper, too.
Bonus: Serve it as a piquant sauce with chicken and fish, poached or grilled.
THE HISTORY OF BAGNA CÀUDA
Bagna càuda dates to the Middle Ages, during the expansion of commerce between France and Italy. Among other items, Italian merchants began to import salted anchovies.
A dip from Provence, anchoiade, is made with olive oil, garlic, white wine vinegar and anchovies. It likely crossed the border with the imported anchovies.
The Piemontese adjusted the recipe to their taste, warmed it up, and created bagna càuda.
For some time, bagna càuda was a food for ordinary people. It was not included in official Piedmontese cookbooks until 1875 [source].
Today, it is one of the most popular recipes to hail from the Piedmont region.
SALAD WITH BAGNA CÀUDA
Last year, we came across an extension of the bagna càuda dip: as a warm dressing for a spring salad. We’ve enjoyed it several times since then
Some simple recipes require simply that the anchovy fillets be mashed with the garlic cloves. They are then simmered in olive oil for a few minutes to take the edge off the garlic.
The French had it right: The dip tastes better with a bit lemon juice or vinegar.
Some versions add butter or cream.
You can give it a different flavor profile with walnut oil.
If you have truffle pieces (lucky you!), toss them in.
Here’s our version. Play with it as you wish.
Ingredients For 1 Cup Of Dressing (4 Servings)
4-6 large garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6-12 best quality anchovy fillets, well drained
Zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Optional: pinch of chile flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
Ingredients For The Salad
Use whatever looks nice and springy in the produce aisle. We didn’t include carrot curls in the ingredients list, for example; but any salad vegetable fits right in.
2 cups baby spinach
2 endive or radicchio, leaves separated
4 radishes (ideally watermelon radishes), very thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 medium beet, ideally chioggia or yellow*, peeled and thinly sliced
4 scallions, trimmed
12 small asparagus spears, blanched or raw
Salt and pepper
*Red beets bleed.
1 burrata or 6 ounces goat cheese —or—
4 eggs, boiled 8 minutes and cooled, then halved or quartered
Prosciutto “roses” (roll up the slices)
1 crusty baguette, sliced into 1″ widths
1. MAKE the dressing: Pound the anchovies and garlic into a rough paste, using a mortar and pestle. Place in a small saucepan, add the olive oil and butter and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes, until the anchovies have dissolved. Add the optional chile flakes before removing from the flame.
Alternatively, blend the oil, butter, anchovies and garlic in a food processor until smooth.
To take the edge off the garlic, sauté the garlic cloves in some olive oil for 3-5 minutes.
 Spring salad with chioggia beets, from Foster’s Market Cookbook.
 Spring salad with burrata, from The Gourmet RD. Here are more recipes for a spring burrata salad.
 Spring salad with watermelon radishes, from Sid Wainer.
 Buy the best anchovies you can find, for the best flavor in your bagna càuda. These are from Vital Choice.
 Chioggia beets are a specialty product. Like watermelon radishes, they add fun and fancy to a salad. Here’s a recipe for a chioggia beet salad (photo courtesy Good Eggs).