I discovered this recipe years ago in a "Gourmet" magazine. The first time I made it, we both immediately knew it was a keeper. The recipe originated at Ben Benson's Steak House in New York City (now closed). Years after I first started making it, I was in NYC and purposely made a point to stop and try it there to make sure I had been preparing it as intended. This recipe is right on the button.
In the years since I have been making this salad, it eventually evolved into a Christmas dinner tradition. Not only is it absolutely delicious, the vibrant green and red helps make a festive table. I will tell you, while the anchovies are optional, to us (and to Benson's) they are essential. I know some people's toes will curl at even hearing the word, but it's one touch that makes this salad. Don't get me wrong, the vegetables by themselves are delicious. One thing I did discover about the anchovies. They are delicious the first time around, but on the second day they are definitely different. Therefore, I put the anchovies on the side and them mix them in each time I make a serving for a fresh salad.
BENSON'S SPECIAL SALAD (makes approximately 8 side salads)
3 pickling cucumbers, or one English cucumber, partially peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced or diced
about 3/4# asparagus, cut into 1" lengths
about 3/4# fresh green beans, cut into 1" lengths
grape tomatoes, cut in half, I add enough to make a pretty color (Benson's uses a mixture of red and orange grape tomatoes)
8 oz can hearts of palm, coarsely diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (essential, don't leave this out and don't use dried dill)
small tin of anchovies, finely chopped, optional
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp sugar
Have a bowl of iced-water next to stove. Bring a pan of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for about 5 minutes. Strain the green beans and put them in the iced-water to stop the cooking. In the still boiling water, add the asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes, strain, and add these to the iced-water.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together.