I like to think of this as an updated version of the classic iceberg wedge salad. The Little Gem lettuces, which are served halved, are ideally shaped for holding the dressing. More tender lettuces can’t stand up to a heavy dressing like this one, but Little Gems have a tight, small core that won’t wilt under a creamy topping.
The dressing is a great recipe to try after you’ve mastered aioli, because its base includes ⅓ cup aioli (if you haven’t yet tried the aioli, this will give you an excuse to practice). This creamy vinaigrette has a subtle nutty flavor that’s enhanced and refined with the addition of a splash of pistachio oil, if you have it (it’s not mandatory). You can also thicken the dressing with an additional ½ cup finely chopped toasted pistachios and use it as a dip for crudités.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 3 teaspoons minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- ¾ cup raw, unsalted shelled pistachios
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1¼ teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ cup aioli
- 3 tablespoons pistachio oil (optional)
- ½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1½ teaspoons minced tarragon
- 3 teaspoons minced chives
- 3 teaspoons minced chervil or flat-leaf parsley
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 2 large or 4 small heads Little Gem lettuce
- 2 radishes
- Flaky finishing salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the shallot in a small mixing bowl, cover with the vinegar, add ½ teaspoon of the salt, and set aside to macerate for about 10 minutes. This helps to soften the sharp bite of raw shallot.
- Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Since pistachios have brown skins and a crisp texture, it can be hard to tell when they’re toasted. If you are not sure, allow them to cool and then taste one. You’re looking for an only slightly toasted flavor and a green interior. They won’t be crunchy until they cool. Roughly chop the pistachios and divide them into two batches of ½ cup and ¼ cup. Set them aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the macerated shallot and its liquid, the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt, the lemon zest and juice, the aioli, the pistachio oil, and the crème fraîche. Add the minced herbs and whisk again. Taste for balance and season with pepper and sugar if necessary.
- MAKE THE SALAD Trim off the very end of the base of each lettuce but leave the head intact. Cut each lettuce in half vertically and submerge the halves in water to clean thoroughly. Drain on paper towels and spin out any remaining water in a salad spinner.
- Set a mandoline blade to create slices about the thickness of a dime. Arrange a small bowl of ice water next to your cutting board. Slice the radishes on the mandoline and place the slices in the ice water. About 5 minutes before serving, remove the radishes from the water and dry well in a salad spinner.
- Stir ½ cup of the chopped pistachios into the vinaigrette. To serve family-style, put about ⅔ cup of the vinaigrette on a serving plate and arrange the lettuce halves on the top. Spoon the remainder of the vinaigrette over the top of the lettuce. Top with the radish slices, the remaining chopped pistachios, a sprinkle of finishing salt, and some pepper.