For a brief period of time I had a Tinder account. It started as a joke. A distraction. A lightness in the midst of a great heaviness. I’m someone you might not expect to have a Tinder profile and I think the taboo of it is what drew me to it. All the swiping left and right was fun but I wasn’t actually going to use it. Except then I did. Because between all the ab pictures (which were a definite swipe left) I also found a large number of individuals like myself seeking real connection.
A Tinder profile, for those not familiar is comprised of a few pictures and a very brief character count to summarize who you are. With my ration of words, I chose a few to highlight my cooking abilities. Thus the most common conversation starter I received from my would be dates was, ‘What’s the best thing you can cook?’ My answer: ‘salad.’ As you can imagine, that immediately led to countless first dates. Every man, especially the hunters and cold smoke seekers that populate south west Montana, want to eat really good salad. But it’s true. I make really great salads. (Most of the time).
Salad also happens to be one of the first areas of cooking where I began to take chances and use my imagination. I remember the first time I made a garlic balsamic vinaigrette and I thought as I slowly whisked the olive oil slowing into the vinegar that the emulsion that formed was magic. The simplest of recipes but this was 15 or more years ago when food blogs and being a foodie were reserved to food writers for Bon Apetit and Saveur. I remember the first time I candied pecans for a salad. I remember gathering pomegranates from the trees at the end of the drive and seeding them and tossing those in with the pecans. That salad was magic and unlike anything I’d eaten before.
Since much of my journey with food began with greens, a good dressing and the right toppings I felt it was a good foundation for this space. I’ve written countless first drafts. But I never shared them. Some were deep with bits and pieces of my life story. One was about running. There was a lot of vulnerability. Others were explanatory: here’s why I’m throwing my voice in with the countless others already taking up space on the worldwide web. Or why I deserve a place. I decided that no explanation is required for creative projects, especially one you’ve been thinking about for over seven years. Finally, when I started writing about Tinder and one of my go-to salads of the last year, I knew I’d landed on a winner.
This salad is one of my favorites. I typically have all the dressing ingredients on hand and the base is so versatile you can top it with what’s in season and what’s on hand. This specific recipe also features what have become one of the secret weapons in my kitchen—fresh herbs. I used to buy cilantro and maybe some basil at the store to make Caprese salad with. I’d only branch out to Italian parsley, oregano, dill etc. when I had a recipe in mind that required a specialty herb. Enter, Date Night In and a certain avocado salad found within it’s pages that’s literally avocados with a cup of fresh herbs and it serves two. My eyebrow raised at the reading of one cup. And I know that I shied far away from the full cup the first time I made it. But not the second, or the third, or the fourth. And my fridge was changed forever. There’s always an assortment of fresh herbs waiting for me.
Back to the salad we’re actually making today which is an adaptation of another ‘herby’ salad recipe from Ashley Rodriguez’s book. (Please go visit her beautiful and inspirational site, it’s truly one of the best out there, and I’ll be mentioning her again). It’s the perfect back pocket recipe for company or when you want to dress up a weeknight meal. It comes together easily. The dressing makes extra which you’ll definitely be happy about, and this version represents how I feel about spring in Montana—winter just doesn’t want to let go. The herbs and butter leaf lettuce paired with the shallot dressing are an ode to the reawakening of spring, but the grapefruit and watermelon radishes are the footholds of winter. It’s fitting that on this April day it’s snowing in Montana.
Welcome to this little place of mine. I’m so glad you’re here.
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I typically add extra because I love this flavor)
- 2 tablespoons full fat Greek yogurt*
- 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- Juice of one medium lemon, Meyer if you can get one
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 head butter leaf lettuce, leaves removed and carefully torn into large pieces
- 1 small-medium watermelon radish, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline) or substitute 3 red radishes
- 1 grapefruit, pith removed and sectioned
- 1 avocado, quartered and thinly sliced
- Heaping ½ cup of chopped assorted fresh herbs (I used dill, mint and tarragon, but parsley, cilantro, and basil are also wonderful)
- 2 tablespoons shelled toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
- Flake sea salt (Maldon is my favorite brand)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Make the dressing: Whisk together the shallot, honey, mustard, yogurt, vinegar and lemon juice until combined. Continue whisking as you gradually add the olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Taste and add more seasoning as needed.
- Assemble the salad: Put lettuce leaves into a large bowl and toss with ¼ cup dressing. Add more dressing as needed.** Arrange the leaves on four plates. Top with the herbs, reserving some for the final garnish. Next top with grapefruit segments and ¼ avocado per plate. Continue topping with radish slices, more herbs and a sprinkle of your pistachios. Finish with a sprinkle of flake salt and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately so your beautiful lettuce does not wilt.
*Another great option would be an Icelandic Skyr type yogurt such as Siggi's. For those looking for a dairy free option, I have yet to try this with a non-dairy yogurt but bear in mind that the thickness of Greek yogurt is what makes this dressing. If you go the non-dairy route I would try a coconut yogurt like Coyo that is oh so creamy.
**This recipe makes more dressing than you'll need and you'll be happy about the leftovers. I recommend starting by adding less dressing and add more as needed. Butter lettuce has a delicate leaf that we want to preserve and this is a thicker dressing. You don't want to miss out on the flavor though, so your leaves will be weighed down a bit. I recommend tasting a leaf to determine if you have enough dressing before proceeding.