CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.

From Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606


To William Shakespeare, “salad days” referred to the carefree days of one’s youth.   No doubt this allusion came from the image the freshness, tenderness, and greenness of the lettuce leaves.  In any case, every day is a salad day at our house because there is rarely a meal served without one.  Here’s hoping that this will keep us young.

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Bibb Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette

  When we were living in Bordeaux, France, we frequented a wonderful restaurant called L’Entrecote,which, translated literally, means “the cut of meat taken from between the ribs”.  They didn’t take reservations and there was almost always  a long line to get in.  Once you were shown to your table, a server would  simply ask three questions. 1. Still or sparkling? (water)  2. Red or Rose? (wine) 3. Rare or Medium? (steak).  And Voila! dinner would begin to arrive.  The first course was a salad similar to this one, tender bibb lettuce with walnut halves in a light vinaigrette.  The salad was promptly followed by a large platter of sliced sirloin steak in a rich fragrant sauce (secret recipe, I was told) and a huge mound of hot, crispy fries.  I see copycat recipes for the L’Entrecote steak sauce from time to time on various foodie web sites.  Maybe someday I’ll try a few and see if any of them are “it”.
     This is a salad from Tyler Florence’s book, Dinner at My Place.  The lightly toasted walnuts in the photo are my addition.
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 lemon, juice only
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
Combine shallot, mustard, and lemon juice in a large salad bowl.  Slowly drizzle in oil as you constantly whisk to emulsify the dressing.  Once all of the oil has been incorporated, stir in honey and fold in the 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper.
Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.  Smear the dressing up around the insides of the salad bowl and toss the leaves in the bowl.  (By doing this the leaves pick up a light,even coating of the dressing.)  Fold in the 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves and serve.
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Field Greens with Blue Cheese and Crispy Shallots

This is a wonderful combination of flavors that I like to serve with beef or chicken hot off the grill and big baked potato.   The crispy shallots are an extra step, I know,  but they can be prepared in advance and kept at room temperature for hours.  The first time I made them, I wanted to sprinkle them on everything!  Here is the method for frying the shallots, and a recipe for a nice balsamic vinaigrette that will compliment the flavors of this salad.
For the crispy shallots:
Peel and thinly slice 5-6 large shallots.  Heat 1-2 inches of vegetable oil in a small pan over medium high heat.  Add the shallots to the oil, making sure to separate the rings.  Adjust the heat so that the shallots are cooking at a slow simmer and stir them around every few minutes.  The point is to fry them slowly so that they develop an even, golden brown color.  This should take about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the fried shallots to a paper towel to drain.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  They will crisp up as they cool.

For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Red and Green Leaf Lettuces with Tomatoes and Peppercorn Ranch

 

Homemade ranch dressing has such a clean, fresh taste.  Try to whip this dressing up the the morning and store in the refrigerator.  It will thicken up nicely and the peppery flavor will have time to develop.

Peppercorn Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried minced garlic
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Season with salt to taste.

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