Even people who "don't like salad" like this lettuce and walnut salad. The crunchy, toasty garlic salted walnuts might have something to do with it.
I am not and have never been, strictly speaking, a "salad person." I like them fine, sure. But I like them best at restaurants where someone else does all the washing and drying and chopping and tossing for you.
Simon Peace restaurant in Vermont once offered a particularly memorable shaved Brussels sprouts salad that I still dream about to this day and might one day try to recreate for this blog (UPDATE 9/7/20 — I have!). But at home? I can never quite get that perfect balance of salad ingredients right. The salad dressing ends up feeling like an afterthought, rather than a compliment to the veggies.
So when I'm in the mood for some leafy greens or have been tasked with bringing some to a dinner party, I turn to this lettuce and walnut salad. It looks simple, but it packs a ton of well-balanced tangy, zesty, garlicky flavor.
Just how simple is Lettuce and Walnut Salad? You will need: Romaine lettuce. Slivered carrots. Toasted walnuts. That's it. The vinaigrette calls for some spices and herbs that might not be staples in your pantry (yet), but is also so good that I've found they became pantry staples simply so you can keep making lettuce and walnut salad.
While you can use other lettuces, add more veggies, maybe some cheese or sesame seeds and still end up with a good salad, I've found it's truly best when you keep the extras minimal. (That said, I do love this with some grilled chicken strips stuffed into a pita pocket.)
The romaine offers a nice "ombre" of texture compared to other lettuces — soft leafy green at the top with slightly bitter pale green toward the base. The mustard-dill vinaigrette evenly coats the V-shaped lettuce leaves, which are cut into thin strips. The carrots offer sweetness and a softer crunch, not to mention adding a bit of color to the bowl. And the toasted garlic walnuts are what truly send it over the top.
On their own, garlicky walnuts are a borderline-addictive snack (it's hard not to pick at them once you've made them!), but when the vinaigrette and the garlic salt combine, it's an almost-too-much-but-actually-just-right explosion of flavor that salad and non-salad lovers alike will enjoy.
(This is another recipe from the What the Eisenbergs Eat archives — one of those recipes I grew up eating but whose true origins are murky at best. If you happen to recognize it, please leave a comment below so I can update my attribution accordingly!)
assembling your lettuce and walnut salad
Okay, yes, making a salad is pretty easy — toss the veggies in the dressing, what else do you need to know? Honestly, nothing, but I did want to just take a moment to note that if you're planning on traveling with this salad at all (i.e. going to a dinner party) or aren't serving it immediately, wait to add the walnuts and the dressing until right before you serve it.
I recommend making the dressing first, then toasting the walnuts, and then chopping, rinsing, and drying the lettuce and carrots in a salad spinner while the walnuts cool. Toss it all together right before serving so that the lettuce stays crisp, the walnuts stay crunchy, and the dressing doesn't slide off the greens. The dressing will separate while it sits, so whisk it again right before you pour it on.
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lettuce and walnut salad with mustard-dill vinaigrette
- 2 heads romaine lettuce (cut into 1" strips)
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
- garlic powder
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon dill weed (not dill seed)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Whisk all salad dressing ingredients together in a measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over low-medium heat. Toss walnuts in skillet with garlic and salt until very aromatic and the walnuts begin to take on a slightly darker color. Keep an eye on these — if you don’t keep them moving around the pan, they might burn!
- Remove the toasted walnuts from the pan onto a paper towel. When cool enough to touch, taste one and add more garlic salt as needed.
- Chop whole head of romaine in thin approximately 1″ strips from top to bottom. Make your strips thinner as you get closer to the pale white stem — that part of the leaf is more bitter than the top. Rinse, along with carrots, in a salad spinner, and spin thoroughly to dry.
- Right before serving, toss lettuce and carrots together in a salad bowl. Whisk the dressing again. Pour over the salad and toss until the dressing evenly coats the lettuce leaves. Garnish with walnuts.