Its hard to believe that August is already here and our salad days will soon be winding down and we will be moving into a type of autumnal/harvest kind of cooking! I want to wave a magic "time-stand-still" wand over August and keep it with us for much, much longer than it usually stays. Why is summer always so slow to arrive and in such a hurry to leave!!
I love Iceberg Lettuce. It has such a lovely benign flavour . . . not too sharp, not bitter . . . just right. I am afraid it gets a bad rap these days. There are so many other lettuces available with prettier rufflier dresses, more colourful and flavourful to be sure. Don't ever underestimate the appeal of Iceberg Lettuce however . . .
Its crisp and never limp. It has a beautiful crunch and mild flavour, and it never, ever wilts under pressure! It can stand up to the most robust of flavours and ingredients very well, thank you very much!
It is the lettuce of my childhood. We never ever had anything else, except for maybe leaf lettuce from the garden . . . and to this day iceberg lettuce is the only lettuce my mother will eat. She totally eschews any other kind. That is just one of my mother's best qualities. She is loyal to the core . . . to political parties, to grocery shops, to hair dressers, to cars . . . and yes, to lettuce. God bless you mom. We love you.
Seriously though, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING on the planet that can compare to the beauty, flavour and crunch of a salad made with iceberg lettuce, especially when presented with and served with the most perfect accompaniments. That's one of the beauties of iceberg lettuce. It never minds sharing the plate with a willing dance partner, and it goes very well with lots of other flavours. It is like the chicken breast of the lettuce world. It makes a beautiful canvas.
In this instance I have cut the lettuce crosswise horizontally . . . into half inch "steaks." Yes, you will need a knife and a fork to eat it, but just wait, it gets even better. The "steaks" are drizzled with a beautiful creamy herb buttermilk dressing . . . with just enough flavour to really bring out the best of that crisp and crunchy iceberg lettuce . . .
There is a sprinkling of finely julienned radish for some heat and colour, a bit of mustard cress for a bit more colour and flavour, and then . . . finally . . . instead of croutons . . . some toasted salt and pepper pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped. This is a salad I would be happy serving to my lady friends for lunch, and I guarantee they would all be pleased as punch with it. This is a salad that would have been quite at home at the Manor for one of Madames luncheons.
*Creamy Herb Dressed Lettuce Steaks*
A very attractive salad with a lovely herbed dressing. Pretty enough for a ladies lunch.
For the Creamy Herb Dressing:
small bunch dill, stems removed and discarded (1/4 cup, loosely packed)
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley, stems removed and discarded (3/4 cup loosely packed)
2 TBS loosely packed thyme leaves
1/2 handful chives, finely snipped (1/3 cup)
165g good quality mayonnaise (3/4 cup)
120ml buttermilk (1/2 cup)
2 TBS cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
few dashes hot pepper sauce
You will also need:
1 head of iceberg lettuce, washed, left whole and outside leaves removed and discarded
1 punnet of mustard cress (micro leaves)
4 large radishes julienned
65g shelled roasted salt and pepper pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
Finely chop the dill leaves, flat leaf parsley, and thyme leaves. Set aside with the chives. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, buttermilk, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce. Stir in the herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Make sure your lettuce is dry and quite chilled. Cut crosswise into four 1/2 inch thick "steaks", removing the rounded ends. Save these for another salad, another day. Place each lettuce "steak" onto a chilled plate for serving. Drizzle each with some of the dressing. Scatter over the julienned radishes, mustard cress and chopped nuts. Serve immediately.
Note - a bit of grated cheese is also nice scattered over top, or blue cheese crumbles.
You could also grated a bit of cheese on top if you wanted. Blue cheese crumbles would be nice, or a bit of sharp cheddar, maybe even some Parmesan shavings, but try not to mess with it too much. This is beautiful just as it is. Bon appetit!