Summer heat of the kind that weighs so heavily, that all activity seems to be part of a slow-motion movie. This is the kind of weather that makes cooking with a stove an indulgence. When the days are sultry and long, I like to create something raw that tastes like I have been a slave to the kitchen. This means salad but of a different sort. My favorite use for lettuce is to tear apart the leaves and to fill them with brightly colored vegetables. A bowl of freshly made yoghurt dip turns this simple twist on salad into a delicious appetizer. After a few minutes of preparation in the kitchen, the only thing I might be tempted to add to the table is a loaf of bread with a golden crust to soak up the salad juices.
Ingredients for the filled salad leaves
- one Romaine lettuce
- two carrots
- two red beets
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider or white wine vinegar
- a good pinch of Himalaya or Celtic sea salt
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon of raw honey
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- a small handful of fresh herbs from the garden
- 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika or piment d’espelette
Tear the lettuce leaves apart and soak them in a bowl of cool water. Repeat this process a few times to wash away all traces of sand from the garden. Drain the lettuce leaves in a colander and wrap them into a clean tea towel. Meanwhile prepare the vinaigrette for the beets and carrots by pouring the vinegar into a bowl and adding a pinch of salt. Stir both ingredients with a fork until the salt dissolves. Add the Dijon mustard and honey and stir. Pour in the olive oil and whisk the ingredients into a smooth emulsion.
Wash and peel the carrots and grate them coarsely with a box grater into a bowl. Pour half the vinaigrette over the carrots. Add the smoked paprika and taste for the right balance between the savory and the spice. Add some extra paprika or sea salt if needed and set the carrots aside. Wash the beets and peel the outer layer with a paring knife. Grate the beets with a box grater into a bowl, being careful that the deep red beet juices don’t stain your favorite linen blouse. Stir the second half of the vinaigrette through the beets, topping them off with some finely chopped fresh herbs. I like to use flat leaf parsley and fresh mint, but a touch of fresh rosemary and thyme (or even lavender) works well too. Allow the beets and carrots to marinate while making the following lemon-yogurt dressing.
- 150 grams thick Turkish or Greek yoghurt
- one tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Optional — one garlic clove
- a pinch of Himalaya or Celtic sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Scrub the lemon with a brush under cold running water. Grate the peel of the lemon with a zester catching the thin lemon curls into a small bowl. Squeeze the juice into a bowl. Pour two tablespoons of lemon juice into a separate bowl. Finely chop one teaspoons of lemon zest, saving the rest to make lemon sea salt (see the note below). Add the Dijon mustard and a pinch of sea salt to the lemon and stir the ingredients into a smooth paste. Add yoghurt and mix well with a fork or whisk. Crush a fresh clove of garlic into the sauce and stir. Pour the yoghurt dip into a pretty serving bowl.
Arrange the lettuce leaves around the lemon-yoghurt dip on a large platter and fill them with a generous spoon of beets and carrots. The appetizer salad is ready to serve. Don’t forget the crusty bread to soak up the juices.
This salad adds color to a picnic table filled with marinated green beans and grilled fish. I also like to serve it with smashed cannellini. I put any leftover beets and carrots into Mason jars and save them in their marinade until the following day.
Place the leftover lemon zest on a wooden cutting board. Add two tablespoons of your favorite mineral or sea salt. Chop the lemon zest with a sharp knife into the salt with a sharp knife, until the zest is finely incorporated into the salt. Allow the salt and lemon zest to dry in the open air for a few hours before putting into a jar with a lid. The lemon salt will keep well for many months. I like to store it in the refrigerator.
This recipe is my twist on one of Jamie’s 10 Food Revolution recipes. I gladly contribute to Mr. Oliver’s campaign as super ambassador of the Food Revolution. I too feel that teaching and passing on cooking skills to friends and family makes life not only more meaningful but infinitely more valuable on an emotional level. Read more on this here.