Can it be August already? I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful summer!
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted our Gourmet Group of 5 couples. It's always a challenge to come up with a delicious and unique menu from year to year as everyone loves to cook and the menus are always top-notch. The host and hostess send each couple the entire menu with recipes. Each couple is assigned one recipe to prepare and bring to the dinner and the host and hostess provide the main course, a side dish and all the wine and beverages.
After the first course, which was a refreshing Spanish almond, cucumber and grape gazpacho, this delightful salad was served. Not too difficult to prepare, it was not only delicious but the baby romaine, or Little Gem lettuce, looked adorable on the plate. The creamy pistachio dressing, toasted pistachios and sliced radishes added even more crunch and was a delightful combination of flavors.
So what else have I been doing since my last post? Hosting our three grandsons numerous times for swimming and overnights...
Celebrating our anniversary at a wonderful seafood restaurant on the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee. It was a lovely summer evening on the patio with a view to the west of the Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum and, to the east, of the inner Lake Michigan harbor...
And, of course, I've been enjoying my garden and all the sunny yellow blooms this year :)
Baby Romaine Salad with Creamy Pistachio Dressing
For the Vinaigrette:
3 teaspoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup raw, unsalted shelled pistachios (regular salted, shelled pistachios work fine but cut back on additional salt)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1-1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup aioli (mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise with 1 minced garlic clove and 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice)
3 tablespoons pistachio oil (optional)
1/3 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons minced tarragon
3 teaspoons minced chives
3 teaspoons minced flat-leaf parsley
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
To make the vinaigrette:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Place the shallot in a small mixing bowl, cover with the vinegar. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and set aside to macerate for about 10 minutes.
Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Roughly chop the pistachios and divide them into two batches of 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the macerated shallot and its liquid, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, the lemon zest and juice, the aioli, the pistachio oil, and the crème fraiche or sour cream.
At this point, the salad can be refrigerated until ready to use.
Before serving, add the minced herbs and whisk again. Taste and season with pepper and sugar, if necessary.
For the Salad:
2 large or 4 small heads Little Gem Lettuce (regular romaine would also work using the pale, inner head)
Flaky finishing salt
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the Salad:
Trim off the base of each lettuce leaving the head intact. Cut each head of lettuce in half vertically and place in a large bowl of water to clean thoroughly. Drain on paper towels and spin out any remaining water in a salad spinner.
Slice the radishes thinly and place in a bowl of ice water. Store in refrigerator. Dry well with paper toweling before serving.
To serve, stir 1/2 cup of the chopped pistachios into the vinaigrette. Arrange lettuces on plates and spoon the vinaigrette equally over each lettuce half. Top with the radish slices, remaining chopped pistachios. Add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and serve.
Adapted from Taste and Technique by Naomi Pomeroy.