Having lived in New York for the last four years, Gennaro and I have spent many a Saturday and Sunday hanging out at local bars to watch our hometown football teams play. For those who are wondering: no, Detroit Lions games are not generally nationally broadcast. Shocker. And when Michigan football games are broadcast on the Big Ten Network, we’ve been relegated to the bar for those games as well.
Anyways, long story short, it doesn’t take much perusing on this site to figure out that my diet and bar food don’t generally mix. Same goes for the pitchers of beer that are often free-flowing at these sport bars — the drink of choice for seemingly every patron but myself. I often feel like a fish out of water, desperately searching the menu for one item — any item — I can eat. If nothing else, it’s an attempt to avoid annoying the waiter/waitress by being “that person” at the table, even though whatever I do end up ordering quite possible ends up annoying him/her just as much. Hence, I have developed some distaste for watching games at sports bars.
There is an exception, however, and a big one. “The Wright Salad” at Brother Jimmy’s was so surprisingly fresh, unique and flavorful that it had me actually hoping for more non-locally televised games on the horizon. The lettuce is actually fresh, crisp romaine with possibly even other heirloom varieties thrown in. It’s tossed with fresh toasted pecans, dried cherries, wild rice, roasted sweet potatoes and poblano peppers in an herb vinaigrette. If you read that description out of context, you would probably not believe anyone who tries to tell you that this salad is actually offered at a sports bar, and moreover, that it’s actually good. Surprisingly, now that I’m leaving New York for good, it’s right up there on my list of “New York” food items that I will really, really miss (along with Caracas arepas, Stogo Ice Cream and Viva Herbal Pizza).
Luckily, I’ve created a knock-off. Mine might not be as hearty (I didn’t have wild rice on hand when I was creating this version). And I’ve added kale for an extra nutritional boost (what can I say, that’s kind of how I roll). But for the most part, it captures the complexity of flavors and the excitement of the original that got me hooked on “The Wright Salad” (no idea about the name, really) in the first place. In other words, I think I got it “right.”
This salad takes a bit of work, especially for a salad. There are a few different components, but they are really all important to the overall taste and balance of the dish. Sure, it might be easier to hop on a plane (or bus, or train) and actually eat-in at Brother Jimmy’s. But if you’re going to hop on a plane to New York for food, I’m sure a sports bar is not the first place that comes to mind, let’s be real. Plus, if you make this salad for guests, it usually garners a lot of interest, as it was certainly the first time I had seen sweet potatoes, dried cherries and poblanos in a single salad.
1 head good, fresh romaine, washed and chopped
1/2 bunch kale, finely chopped
1/3 cup dried fruit-sweetened cranberries or cherries
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled and sliced (as described here)
1/3 cup pecans, dry toasted in a pan until lightly browned, cooled
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup grapeseed oil/light olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teasooon dried thyme
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Toss diced sweet potato with oil and a tiny pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon). Lay flat on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and soft, tossing halfway through. Set aside to cool.
3. Assemble dressing: briskly whisk or shake all ingredients. Set aside.
4. Assemble salad: toss all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add enough dressing to coat lettuce leaves and toss until coated, adding more if desired. Serve immediately.