Recently I was craving a bright, vibrant and colorful salad after realizing I'd had too much red, brown and wintry-hued foods. One of my favorite salad greens is a delicate lettuce called mache, also known as Lamb's Lettuce. I'm currently reading "United States of Arugula" and having read about the rise of gourmet lettuces in the past three decades must have tickled my subconscious mind. So, when I spied it in the Garden of Eden, I knew a beautiful and bright salad would celebrate the abundance of flavors we can have in our salads these days.
Last autumn I had found perky and tart husk tomatoes that reminded Mr. Scrumptious of something he knew growing up but they weren't exactly right. I found them this time, labeled as goldenberries from the Andes; they have a definitive sweet-tart punchiness. These two items and a couple of unique twists on a vinaigrette yielded my delicious "Mache and Goldenberry Salad with Orange Hazelnut Vinaigrette."
4 oz. fresh mache
8 - 10 fresh goldenberries, husked and halved
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. hazelnut oil
1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. orange extract
freshly shaved cheese of choice for garnish
edible flowers (in my case, pansies) for garnish
1. Dampen a paper cloth and gently wipe clean the leaves of the mache. Wrap the damp paper towel around the mache to keep it fresh while you prepare the rest of the salad. It's very delicate and cannot really be washed. Husk (if appropriate) and wash goldenberries. Shave the cheese and set aside.
2. Cut the goldenberries in half with a small knife.
3. Plate the mache and sprinkle with goldenberries.
4. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add the oils, vinegar, salt, pepper and orange extract. Whisk thoroughly until the dressing is fully mixed and incorporated.
5. Drizzle the dressing over the salads making sure to just lightly kiss the lettuce with the dressing. The mache is very delicate, one doesn't want to use a heavy hand on the dressing. Garnish with shaved cheese and edible flowers if desired, and serve immediately.
I chose to use hazelnut oil here to add a richer flavor to the dressing and help balance the sweet-tart of the goldenberries with the light nuttiness. Also, the orange extract helped to keep the taste fresh and vibrant and worked extremely well. By the way, little lambs don't really eat mache, I was just playing with the nursery rhyme in my head. It's called Lamb's Lettuce because the leaves resemble a cute little lamb's tongue, I guess. Although green. And, not wet or raspy. So, who really knows?