Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Butter Lettuce Salad with
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Over time every cook becomes known for at least one signature dish so delicious that it is requested by friends and family again and again. Whether it is your mom’s mouth-watering meat loaf or best friend Sam’s handmade ravioli, all cooks have something they do 'best'.

My husband H is a masterful cook and can take credit for many unbelievably tasty recipes. He is known far and wide in our community for his own signature work, a butter leaf lettuce salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Every time we are invited to a barbecue, dinner party or picnic and ask what we can bring, the reply is the same: "We’d love some of that great salad H makes!"

Luckily for me, balsamic vinegar is rated by Celiac.Com as gluten free. There are also many varieties of blue cheese now verified to be gluten free (although you need to carefully check each brand as some are still started with bread mold*). Happily this means that I can still enjoy H’s famous salad… and now so can you!!!

Butter Lettuce Salad with
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

What You’ll Need:

Salad for 4:

14 oz (approx 2 bags) mixed butter lettuce and radicchio
(European blend of baby greens may be substituted for equal excellence)
1 large avocado sliced into small pieces (approx 1 inch long, ¼ inch wide)
1 large vine ripened tomato
1 to 2 oz bleu cheese crumbles


Organic extra virgin Olive Oil
High quality balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper

Proportions: 50% oil 50% vinegar...
This means approx 3 tbsp oil, 3 tbsp vinegar for a salad to serve 4 people.
Approx ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper (to taste)

How It Works:

After thoroughly washing and spinning lettuce and radicchio mix, pour it into a large salad bowl. With clean hands, rip each piece of lettuce into thirds.

Next, slice avocado lengthwise into strips and then make perpendicular cuts throughout each long strip so that you have many small pieces approximately 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide.

Scatter these pieces around salad. Chop your fresh ripe tomato into pieces approximately the same size as those of the avocado.

Scatter 1 – 2 oz of gluten free bleu cheese on top of your salad.

Now it is time to create the piece de la resistance of this recipe... the balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

The most important thing to remember when making this tangy dressing is proportions. No matter how large of a quantity of dressing H is preparing, he always uses 50% extra virgin olive oil to 50% high quality balsamic vinegar.

For a dinner party of 4 people, H recommends creating a little more than 1/3 cup dressing for the salad. This means you will need approximately 3 tbsp of oil coupled with 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, poured into a serving implement made out of glass. (H prefers to make his dressing in a standard glass measuring cup.)

Now add your fresh ground pepper and begin to mix all ingredients together. In order to maximize its potential, this dressing must be stirred with a fork very vigorously and applied onto the salad before the oil and vinegar can separate.

Once your dressing is upon the greens, toss the salad very well. Don’t be afraid to use some force… even breaking apart the salad a little. H feels this allows the flavors to penetrate the greens, and mixes the avocado and bleu cheese well.

Last step, serve and enjoy immediately!

*For a great explanation about the history of gluten in bleu cheese, read this article by Alison of Sure Foods Living. (This recommendation comes from one of my all time favorite authorities on gluten, A Gluten Free Guide.)


alison said...

Thanks for linking to my article!
The salad looks yummy. It's funny, even though most blue cheese is gluten-free, I haven't really gotten used to eating it again after I cut it out!

strivingChef said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to research bleu cheese so well, Alison! There are a lot of cheeses that I prefer (and for a while I was trying to go dairy free) but my husband really, really, really loves the bleu cheese... so I'm grateful to know there are ones I can still have!

I got into a conversation at work today about gluten in olives... have you written anything about that? :-)