The adorable little heads of lettuce in last week’s share immediately reminded me of this show-stopper of a salad, from Matt Jennings’ (formerly of Townsman) cookbook “Homegrown: Cooking from My New England Roots.” It is definitely more involved than your average salad, but it is so worth it, especially if you’re entertaining.
In his recipe he calls for Little Gem lettuce, which are also small, almost individually-sized heads (Bibb or Boston lettuce is also a fine substitute). If you have the small heads of lettuce from your share, they look fabulous halved or quartered, plated individually, and then dressed with the Cheddar Vinaigrette and sprinkled with the Pistachio Granola. I made this for a Cookbook Club dinner party, and it was definitely one of the highlights. Enjoy!
Little Gem Salad with Cheddar Vinaigrette and Pistachio Granola
For the Granola
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- ½ cup raw pistachios
- ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 Tablespoons aioli or mayonnaise
- 4 ounces aged white cheddar, half grated, the rest crumbled (about 1 cup)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Salad
- 3 heads Little Gem or other mini-head lettuce, halved (or quartered depending on size)
- 8 pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup fresh herb leaves (a mixture of parsley, tarragon, and chervil)
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Make the granola: In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. The granola can be made up to a week ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and mustard. Whisk in the olive oil, sour cream, and aioli until smooth, then switch to a spoon and stir in the grated cheddar and scallions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place two quarters of lettuce on each plate. Spoon some of the dressing over, followed by some of the granola and crumbled cheddar. Garnish with the herb leaves and season with salt and pepper. Serve.