Blue Plate Special: Five Eyed Fox’s Kale Caesar Salad
The Recorder, October 13th, 2015 by Tinky Weisblatt.
Ashley Arthur and Aric Binaco enjoy spending time together. Their mutual affection is a good thing: they are life partners and also business partners at Five Eyed Fox.
This eclectic café, bar and restaurant is tucked away on Third Street in Turners Falls. Along with their silent partner, Meredith Merchant, Arthur and Binaco have just celebrated the eatery’s first anniversary.
The pair met while working at a bar in Worcester four years ago and hit it off at once personally and professionally. “On our first date we talked about opening our own place,” Ashley Arthur recalled when I stopped in a couple of weeks ago.
The pair ended up in Turners Falls while working at other local restaurants. “We liked the surroundings a lot,” said Arthur. They had no immediate plans to open a business, she recalled. “The space kind of found us.”
“The space” was an empty long brick room a block from their home. They slowly developed the décor. “We let it happen organically,” noted Arthur.
With the help of carpenter Tim Ballard, they designed and constructed the wooden furniture and bar. A lover of textiles, Arthur found textured pieces to hang on the walls.
She is in charge of the kitchen while Binaco manages the front of the house. They have seven employees in all and although two helpers are officially prep cooks, the tasks are generally shared. “We all do a lot,” Binaco told me.
The menu is small so that it can be managed by just a few people. To keep things lively — and to follow the seasons —Arthur changes the food offerings at least weekly. “The menu is never static,” she said.
A few popular items do seem to remain in the rotation permanently: the meatball sandwich, featuring local beef; the kale Caesar salad; and a variety of soups.
I asked Arthur and Binaco how they had envisioned the café before opening it.
“We wanted somewhere that was casual and comfortable but that was also a really good product that we were proud of and were able to source locally,” replied Binaco. “We wanted something that conveyed a sense of community just in the way it was run.”
He went on to explain that those dreams seem to be coming true. “We survived our first year on the good graces of this community. This town has really embraced us.” Arthur added that she is pleased at the way the farmers the café supports enjoy patronizing it.
Five Eyed Fox is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to midnight. Arthur and Binaco hope soon to expand the menu and can’t wait for the state to finish processing their liquor license as they have creative plans for the bar.
“Aric and I both have strong cocktail backgrounds,” Arthur explained.
The dish Arthur chose to make for me was her kale salad, a concoction that shouts “fall” with its flavors and especially its colors; the deep green of the kale contrasts with the aster hue of the pickled eggs. She made it clear that no one has to go through all the steps she takes for this salad.
If you wish to make it simpler, use regular (not pickled) hard-boiled eggs, whole croutons and plain grated Parmesan cheese — and skip the fried garlic. Her version takes time; the eggs must sit overnight. It is elegant and delicious, however.
Five Eyed Fox Kale Caesar Salad
for the pickled eggs:
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 tablespoon salt
1 dried Thai chili (optional)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1/2 raw beet, washed but unpeeled, roughly sliced
1 wedge of lemon peel
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
for the crumbled croutons:
2 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
a light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
1 pinch herbes de Provence
for the Parmesan crisps:
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
for the fried garlic:
4 cups canola oil
1 cup finely chopped garlic
For the Caesar dressing (makes about 1 pint): 3 garlic cloves
6 anchovy fillets
5 tablespoons lemon zest
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
for the massaged kale:
1 head lacinato kale
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
for the salad:
the massaged kale
1/4 cup Caesar dressing
1 handful pea shoots (available from Gill Greenery)
3 tablespoons deep-friend garlic
2 tablespoons crumbled croutons
1 parmesan crisp
1 pickled egg, cut into quarters
First, make the pickled eggs. Combine all the ingredients except the eggs in a saucepan. Bring them to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Strain the mixture and pour it over the eggs. Let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge. The egg whites will turn a lovely purple hue.
Next, make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and sprinkle on the oil and herbs. Bake the croutons until they are a golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow them to cool; then pulse them briefly in a food processor or pound them in a plastic bag to create crumbs.
To make the parmesan crisps, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the cheese and pepper together on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake until the cheese turns golden and bubbles, about 15 minutes.
Allow the cheese mixture to cool; then break it in half. (This recipe uses only 1 of the 2 crisps you will create).
To fry the garlic, pour the oil into a very tall pot. Heat the oil until it reaches 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Use a large, long metal spoon to put a heaping spoonful of the chopped garlic into the oil. Stir immediately and carefully.
The oil will rise up rapidly and large bubbles will form from the evaporating moisture in the garlic. Once the bubbles settle (about 10 seconds), gently stir in the remaining garlic. Scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure that no garlic is sticking.
Stir frequently until the bubbles are very small and the garlic pieces are golden brown. Pour the oil through a mesh strainer; you may reserve the garlicky oil for future cooking purposes. Spoon the strained garlic onto a plate covered with paper towels and spread it out so that it doesn’t burn in the center.
You will have extra garlic, which may be stored after cooling in a glass jar at room temperature.
Make the dressing in a food processor. Place all the ingredients — except the olive oil — in the processor and blend. On low speed, drizzle in the oil. Refrigerate the dressing until it is ready to use.
Tear the kale into small sections and place it in a large bowl. Add the oil, salt and lemon juice, and massage the mixture with your hands for about 5 minutes. This softens the kale.
To assemble the salad, pour the 1/4 cup of dressing on the salad, and lightly toss. Throw in the handful of pea shoots. Toss once more. Place the salad in a decorative bowl. (Arthur favors those from Peterman’s Boards & Bowls.)
Toss some garlic and croutons on top, and place the parmesan crisp and egg quarters on the sides. Serves 1 to 2.
Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” If you have a suggestion for a future Blue Plate Special, please email Tinky at Tinky@TinkyCooks.com. For more information about Tinky, visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.