The Sad Salad vs The Happy Salad
Perhaps its just a habit but I make a salad or slaw to accompany every sit down dinner we have at home. They don’t need to be complex, in fact lately most of my salads consist of only 3 Ingredients and a dressing, but they need to be fresh, crisp, and refreshing. Generally I try to concoct a salad that will complement the flavors of the other dishes I am making that evening. If we make grilled steak tacos, I might reach for avocados, roasted poblanos, pepitas, and a lime cilantro vinaigrette, for roasted chicken I might whip up a home made ranch and serve it atop a fresh bed of butter lettuce, studded with tiny nuggets of celery and home made croutons.
The other night, when making a spicy chicken curry, I somewhat instinctively started to chop some cucumber and celery and a big head of lettuce and – blue cheese. Why blue cheese, I have really no idea, but the little nugget of leftover creamy blue was calling to me from its roost in my cheese drawer and I decided to go for it. I am glad I did because the salad that I ended up with was simply sublime and brought an additional herbaceous punch and pungent cheesy element to the spicy and garlicky curry on the plate.
This salad is so simple, and yet so amazingly delicious. Use the crispest, freshest, heads of lettuce you can find. Make sure these are unbruised and have crisp tightly packed leaves. Apart from being a great low calorie vegetable, lettuces contain a good wealth of vitamins and minerals. Some lettuces (especially iceberg) have been specifically bred to remove the bitterness from their leaves. I highly recommend choosing romaine, frisee, or butter lettuces for your salads at home. Not only do I feel that these are superior from a flavor standpoint but these are more nutritionally balanced their their iceberg relative. Romaine and looseleaf lettuce contain five to six times the Vitamin C and five to ten times the vitamin A of iceberg. Romaine and butterhead lettuce are good sources of folate.
I recommend a pungent and creamy blue for this recipe. I like to slice it into bite sized chunks and place it on a plate to come up to room temperature while I prep the other ingredients. As the cucumbers I bought at the farmers market had a distinctly bitter peel, I removed the rind before slicing them into the salad. Feel free to include some celery leaves in this salad as they will give a nice light herbaceous bite to the salad. Feel free to make adjustments to the herbs in the dressing. Those included are a guideline but use your instinct to guide you in creating a balance you like best. As always taste as you go, adding salt and freshly cracked pepper to balance the other ingredients.
Simple Blue Cheese and Lettuce Salad with Herb Vinaigrette
For the Salad:
1 Large Head of Lettuce, Variety of Your Choice, Washed and Torn into Bite Sized Pieces
2 Medium Cucumbers Sliced Into Rounds
2-3 Stalks Celery Cut into 1/2 Inch Pieces
About 2 oz Really Good Slightly Soft Blue Cheese Cut into Bite Sizes Chunks
For the Dressing:
1 Clove Garlic, Smashed
1 Shallot, Peeled
1/4 Cup Water
1/3 Cup Sherry Vinegar
2/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TSP Honey
1/4 Cup Loosely Packed Tarragon
1 Cup Loosely Packed Cilantro
1 TBSP Thyme Leaves
1/3 Cup Loosely Packed Basil
Layer the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss gently with your hands to mix.
Combine the Garlic, Shallot, Water, and Vinegar in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add Honey and Olive Oil and mix until well combined. Add Herbs, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of pepper, mix until herbs are incorporated and appear in the dressing in small bits. Taste for balance and add salt and pepper as needed.
Drizzle dressing on the salad a little at a time and mix with your hands until leaves are just coated. Serve lightly dressed with additional dressing on the side.