Little Gem salad. Such an appropriate name. Made with Little Gem lettuce, radishes, shallots, walnuts, ricotta salata cheese, and walnut vinaigrette, it’s truly a little gem of a salad.
Bright. Vibrant. Fresh. Easy. Surprising. Maybe even a little scintillating. Everything we think a salad should be is right here in this inventive toss of herbs and greens along with cheese and nuts. Its simplicity belies the surprising loveliness of tangy, creamy cheese, crisp radishes, the lilt of lemon, and the nuttiness of the walnut vinaigrette. We dare say it’s the perfect winter salad.–Jenny Howard
☞ Table of Contents
What Exactly Is Little Gem Lettuce?
Little Gem lettuce. If you’ve had it, chances are you love it. If you haven’t had it, it’s sorta like a cross between tender butter (Bibb) lettuce and crunchy romaine and it’s gentle taste and intriguing texture are becoming increasingly available everywhere. However, if you can’t find it, rest assured that most salad recipes will work just as well with butter (Bibb) lettuce in its place.
Little Gem Salad
For the walnut vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 large lemon)
- 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 grinds black pepper
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 1/4 cup walnut oil plus more for drizzling, if desired
For the salad
- 2 large or 4 small heads Little Gem lettuce* cored, leaves left whole or torn in half, if large
- 1/2 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped dill
- 3 large radishes very thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 8 chives cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
- 1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup walnut vinaigrette plus more, to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ounce ricotta salata cheese
Make the walnut vinaigrette
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Still whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in both oils and continue to whisk until the dressing is completely emulsified. (Alternatively, place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar, screw on the lid, and shake until completely emulsified.)
Make the salad
- In a large bowl, gently toss the lettuce, parsley, dill, radishes, shallot, chives, and walnuts.
- Drizzle the salad greens with the walnut vinaigrette and gently toss again. Season with salt and pepper and toss one last time, making sure each leaf is coated with the vinaigrette. Taste and add more vinaigrette or salt and pepper, if needed. (If you have leftover vinaigrette, you can refrigerate it in a lidded jar for up to several days.)
- Transfer the salad to a large platter or serving bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shave strips of ricotta salata over the top. Finish, if desired, with a drizzle of walnut oil. Serve immediately.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Little Gem salad was outstanding!!! We loved the brightness of herbs with the baby lettuce, radishes, and shallots along with the nice addition of toasted walnuts. The best surprise of all was the walnut vinaigrette. We’ll be making this salad again, soon, and on a regular basis!!!! And there was leftover vinaigrette after preparing these salads.
We could have gone either way, however, with the cheese shavings on top, as the salad on its own was a huge hit. I served this salad with an herb-infused chicken pot pie and the acidity of the vinaigrette cut beautifully though the richness of the pie’s filling.
This was a really fresh and tasty salad. I never think to add fresh herbs to a salad but they make such a difference! The vinaigrette is very light, which I liked because I don’t like overly tangy or vinegary salad dressings.
I went back for a second helping and added some pickled beets, which made it even better. Next time I will add some leftover chicken and make it a meal in itself. Definitely a keeper!
The instructions say to transfer the salad to a large platter. Truthfully, I think this one is ok to serve in a bowl. Just add the walnuts at the end with the ricotta so they sit on top—it looks nicer.
I was immediately drawn to this elegant Little Gem salad because I adore all of the ingredients involved! Everything together made for a flavorful and memorable salad. Perfect on its own for a light lunch or as an accompaniment to roast chicken or even a bowl of soup, this combination of tender greens, crunchy nuts and radishes, and creamy cheese will become a staple in my kitchen.
The dressing made plenty for this salad and I am keeping the rest in a jar in the fridge for other salads during the week. A wonderful dressing recipe on its own. I would also like to try it on some steamed asparagus.
Originally published December 12, 2018