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

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.

A bowl of a little gem salad--made up of little gem lettuce, radishes, shallots, walnuts, and walnut vinaigrette

Little Gem Salad

4.67 / 3 votes
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.
David Leite
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories347 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


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.

Adapted From


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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 347 kcalCarbohydrates: 35 gProtein: 15 gFat: 21 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gCholesterol: 4 mgSodium: 91 mgFiber: 21 gSugar: 13 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2018 Ori Menashe | Genevieve Gergis. Photo © 2018 Nicole Franzen. All rights reserved.

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 a bowl of corn and roasted poblano 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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I was drawn to this recipe because I love Little Gem lettuce. This salad came together quickly and was vibrant with the fresh herbs, radishes, and lemony dressing. The ricotta salata added a creamy counterpoint to the herbs and dressing and the toasted walnuts added a nice texture.

    I liked the flavor of the dressing very much but thought the consistency was a little thin and I would have liked a little more body. Maybe a tad more walnut oil or perhaps a little olive oil would help?

    1. Betsy, love that you love this recipe! As for thickening the dressing, actually, depending on your flavor preference, you could add a little more mustard and/or cut back on the vinegar and/or lemon juice. Not certain that holding back on oil would work. Or, and I haven’t tried this so I can’t say for certain, but I think a smidgen of sour cream could turn this dressing into a different yet lovely, creamier vinaigrette. Kindly let us know what you try!

  2. This salad looks wonderful, but I’ve never seen Little Gem lettuce sold where I live. Given that I’ve killed mint—multiple times—growing my own is not an option. What’s the advantage to Little Gem over more ordinary Bibb lettuce, or other lettuces?

    1. It’s very similar to Bibb, Melissa, and you could easily substitute that here. Little Gem is different in that it has a little more crunch, sorta like a cross between romaine and Bibb. But the flavors in this salad will absolutely work with that substitute. So glad you asked! We’ll add a note about that to the recipe so others who have the same question (but don’t ask) will have an answer. Greatly appreciate you taking the time to help us improve the recipe, and would love to hear what you think after you make it!