Butter Lettuce with Orange, Blueberries & Crunch

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It's funny how some ingredients gravitate towards one another. Or maybe it's me that gravitates towards them. Either way, it's nice to meet up with refreshing ingredients. 

Such as Butter lettuce. I enjoy its soft, delicate taste.  And even though it is mild, it's not too precious that it can't handle some zing and crunch.

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Which is why I paired it with orange segments for the zing and seeds for the crunch, and blueberries just because.  Well, not just because. Everything should have a purpose, and these certainly do.  They provide yet another flavor level, adding the tart/sweet level to be exact.  I've made this salad a bunch of time (using nuts)  but the blueberries are a recent addition, as this salad hit the big time, this go around.

Straight up sunflower seeds

Straight up sunflower seeds

Bursting with a tart bite blueberries

Bursting with a tart bite blueberries

This is not a complicated salad, yet it is complex in flavors and textures that all mingle beautifully with a variety of proteins for the main meal. Such as steaks, grilled or roasted fish, pork or chicken.  Its flavors are mild enough so as not to compete, but bold enough to say 'I'm crisp and refreshing, so don't pass me up."  What more can you want from a simple salad? I, dare say, not much. 

So, when during my recent internship at a prep kitchen in Miami I was tasked with making a salad for family meal (that's when the entire staff eats lunch together), I thought this salad might fit the bill. I've always enjoyed it, and was hoping that my new found friends would like it, too.  What I didn't expect was that head Chef MJ liked it so much she decided to offer it at the café for a lunch special the following week.  If you could see my face you would see joy and pride, and a sense of ultimate validation. I guess this little salad of bold flavors and subtle notes from a delicate lettuce got its star on the big screen stage of eateries. 

The line up.

The line up.

Ingredients
 

(Serves 6 as main or 8-10 as a side salad)

2 heads Butter, Bibb or Boston lettuce
3 oranges, segmented
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup pecans, roasted, chopped or sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced
 

 

Dressing

5 t orange juice
4 t lemon juice
4 t lime juice
2/3 c olive oil
2 T cilantro, minced
1 T ginger, grated
2-3 crushed garlic clove
salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

Wash and completely dry the lettuce. Gently tear it into bite size pieces.  If you are using pecans, place them in a 300 degree oven for 5-8 minutes to lightly toast.  Or you can toast them in a pan on the stove.  If you are using seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin, you can toast them or not.  Segment the oranges over a bowl so you can catch all the juices and use for the dressing. Toss together the lettuce, scallions, onions, ⅔ of the orange segments, ⅔ of the pecans or seeds reserving the remainder to decorate the top of the salad.  Whisk together all the ingredients and lovingly pour over the salad and mix well.  Do not over dress the salad.  You just want it all lightly coated.  Then using the rest of the oranges and nuts decorate the top.

You may notice some radicchio in this closeup shot. At the last minute, I added some to bulk up the salad because we had another person joining for lunch.

You may notice some radicchio in this closeup shot. At the last minute, I added some to bulk up the salad because we had another person joining for lunch.

This is a wonderfully, refreshing summer salad.  Or anytime salad.  I think it will brighten any BBQ.  Pair it with spicy ribs.  Pair it with grilled meats or sausages.  Pair it with whole roasted fish.  Go ahead, pair it with anything.  

Corn & Fruit Salad

I had to do it.  I had to use corn again, and oh when fruit is ripe, it's ripe for the picking.  Such is the time for grabbing peaches, nectarines and yes, corn.   At first this might sound like an odd mix, but when you think about some of those sweet salsa mixes, this doesn't sound so odd at all.   In fact, it's just like a salsa but each of the pieces cut larger to make this a hearty salad instead of topping for something else.

I love how all the textures and different flavor notes play off of each other with this combo.  First you have the crunchy, sweet yet savory of the corn, the creaminess of the avocado, the soft, uber sweetness of the peach and nectarine playing nice with that sharp bite of the scallion.  Oh, how I love when fruits and vegetables play nicely with one another.  If only we all could dance together but shine separately like this salad, the world would be an even better place.

Ok, here are the nuts and bolts of this cut' em up, toss 'em up salad.

Ingredients

3 corn on the cob, kernels raw, cut off cob
1 avocado, cut in cubes
2 small peaches,  cut in cubes
2 nectarines,  cut in cubes
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Arugula (optional)

Dressing: juice 1/2 orange, orange zest, juice 1/2 lime, salt, pepper whisk in olive oil

Instructions

I don't mean to be sassy... Alright, I mean to be sassy, but seriously just follow what is written above (or the visuals below).  Cut 'em up. Toss 'em up (gently).  Eat 'em up.

Serve it up.

Serve it up.

You can also add arugula on a big platter as a bed for your 'salsa turned salad' to rest. Actually, this is a great idea because the arugula adds that pepper note that truly rounds out all the flavors on your taste buds.  This one is a refreshing winner.  We ate this at home one night with grilled fish.  We also brought it a BBQ where they served grilled chicken and pork skewers.  It added that perfect sweet/savory flavor to the meal.

Strings... of Bean, Pepper & Asparagus Salad

Many, many moons ago I made a string bean and pepper salad to bring to a BBQ. The hostess and guests loved it, but ironically I never made it again. Mostly because back then, I never wrote any of my recipe ideas down and had forgotten all about this one.  My memory was jogged when I was shopping yesterday and saw some of the ingredients.  I decided it was worth digging into the memory banks to revive this salad.  

The main ingredients I remembered

The main ingredients I remembered

I knew I used string beans, red and yellow peppers with a creamy type of dressing. I also remembered that I cut the string beans on a severe angle, and julienned the peppers so that the visual effect was of all the ingredients being long and lean.  After that, quite honestly the rest was a blur.  This time around I found that I had asparagus in the back of the fridge and thought they fell right in line with the long and lean mantra. So, into this recipe they went. Then began the "recreation".   

Ingredients

4 c (approx) string beans, blanched then cut on a long diagonal
1 red pepper, julienned and blanched
1 yellow pepper, julienned and blanched
1 bunch asparagus, cut lengthwise on the diagonal, blanched
1 scallion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Mint, chiffonade
 

Dressing

1/2 avocado
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 t course sea salt
1/8 t crushed black pepper
1/4 t whole grain mustard
3 T olive oil

String beans blanching

String beans blanching

It's the peppers' turn

It's the peppers' turn

Now the asparagus

Now the asparagus

Instructions

Trim and wash the string beans.  In a saucepan, blanch the string beans until tender but still with a bite.  Cut both the red and yellow peppers into thin julienne slices.  Once the string beans are done, remove and cut them in long diagonal pieces. Add the peppers to same saucepan and lightly blanch.  These literally take 30 seconds to one minute. You just want to get the raw bite out of these.  Cut the asparagus stems on a long diagonal cut.  After removing the peppers, blanch in same saucepan.  Add all the vegetables to a serving dish. Add the scallions and chopped mint.  

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I simply could not recall what I did for the dressing but I had an avocado and knew that would deliver a creamy version.  I used a mortal and pestle to combine all the above ingredients, whisking in the olive oil.  You certainly can use a mini blender in pulse mode or a fork to mash the avocado, then whisk all together.  Pour the dressing over the room temperature vegetables and lightly toss.  

 

 

This wasn't quite the original salad, and I'm not even sure how I can say that since I can't remember what the exact original salad was, but I liked it just the same.  I loved how I could taste the hint of mustard with a bright mint finish and that all the veggies still had a fresh bite to them.  I think this is a great spring and summer side dish for a warm evening's dinner or great for a afternoon BBQ.  This could also be hearty base for a sautéd fish.  It looks great. Tastes great. And truly is a quick and easy recipe to whip up in a hurry.  So hurry, get your long and lean strings of veggies on.