Winter Greens with Idiazabal Cheese

YIELD: 4 servings

First, a couple of notes: Idiazabal is a raw sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region of Northern Spain. It has a hard texture, but is buttery on the palate. The cheese carries a subtly smoky flavor; not because it is a smoked cheese, but because it is aged in farmhouses with wood burning fireplaces.

The preserved Meyer lemons take a while. As in “at a minimum two weeks” a while. They are worth it though. It’s always a bonus to have around your fridge. They give an almost electric burst of brightness that cuts through rich flavors. Try food processing your favorite butter with them and brushing it over fish, chicken or even a ribeye steak!

For the preserved lemons:

• 5 meyer lemons, halved
• 1⁄2 cup salt
• 1⁄2 cup sugar

Cover lemons completely with salt/sugar mix and place tightly in an airtight container. Store in refrigerator for at least two weeks. When ready to use, rinse off excess cure and remove any seeds.

For the vinaigrette:

• 3 preserved lemon halves
• 1⁄2 cup rice wine vinegar
• 1 cup canola oil
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 small shallot
• 1⁄4 cup cold water

In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad:
• 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and cut into 1 inch ribbons
• 1⁄2 cup marcona almonds
• Extra virgin olive oil
• 1 bulb fennel, core removed, thinly sliced
• 1 head radicchio, core removed and cut into 8ths
• 3 heads Belgian endive, cores removed and quartered
• 4 ounces Idiazabel cheese, cut into 1⁄2 ounce wedges
• 1⁄2 tablespoon fennel pollen for garnishing (Optional)
• 1⁄4 cup preserved meyer lemon vinaigrette (recipe above)
• Canola oil

Wash greens thoroughly and spin dry. In a food processor pulse almonds and one tablespoon olive oil to make a “crumble”. In a large mixing bowl, add about 1⁄4 cup of vinaigrette. Toss greens, fennel, radicchio and endive until well dressed; season with kosher salt. Transfer salad evenly amongst four plates. Top each with two wedges of cheese and sprinkle with almond crumble. Garnish with a dusting of fennel pollen, if desired.

Adapted by Ribera y Rueda from James Flowers, Chef de Cuisine, Trio Restaurant at the Four Seasons Austin

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