If there’s any dish that says summer, it’s a salad. Cold, crisp lettuce, fresh vegetables, a tart vinaigrette or cool, creamy dressing. They’re the perfect combination for a refreshing meal when no one wants to turn on the oven or even think of turning on the stove for one minute.
There are, obviously, limitless types of salads and things to throw in them, but my tactic when approaching salad is to keep it simple – no more than two or three types of vegetables, excluding the lettuce. And the dressing, whatever the type, should always be a little tart, never sweet or heavy.
My favorite salad of all is pretty simple: just great buttery lettuce (no peppery or bitter arugula or radicchio, please), earthy chilled beets, crisp and crunchy radishes, and some fresh herbs tossed in a simple, tangy buttermilk dressing. It hits all the flavor and texture notes just right, is a cinch to throw together, and can easily suffice as a hearty meal or pared down salad, next to roasted chicken or grilled skirt steak. The ingredients are cheap and they all hold well in the refrigerator for a couple days to maximize your money, if you want to make the salad again the next day.
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Beet and Butter Lettuce Salad
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 small red or yellow (or a mix of both) beets, roasted, cooled, peeled and cut into 6 wedges each (you can also use canned or jarred, which are already cooked, if you don’t want to roast your own)
4 to 6 red radishes, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup each chopped chives, parsley leaves and dill fronds
1 medium head butter lettuce, cored (get a variety of colors, if you can)
- First, make the dressing by whisking together until smooth the buttermilk, cream, lime juice, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the beets, radishes and herbs, and toss in the dressing.
- Add the lettuce leaves, and toss salad together just before serving. Divide among plates and serve immediately.
Note: To roast beets, heat oven to 400°F. Trim off the leaves, scrub beets well and wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Put foil packet on a baking sheet and roast until a knife inserted into the center of the largest beet pierces easily. Small beets could be done in 20 minutes; larger beets may take an hour. Check every 20 minutes or so to keep from overcooking or burning the beets. When beets are done, peel them as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
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