Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

Story by Natalie
Simple Butter Lettuce Salad
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Composed of tender butter lettuce leaves, briny green olives and salty slivers of aged manchego, our butter lettuce salad is a feast for the eyes and the palate.

Crisp, refreshing, little rich, a little savory, sweet and zippy, this gorgeous butter lettuce salad is all of the things and hits all of the spots. Butter lettuce is one of those underrated, often-overlooked ingredients that feels completely luxurious—it’s called butter lettuce, it even sounds luxurious—and that we highly recommend incorporating into your everyday, or at least your every week.

Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

This particular recipe is actually inspired by a dish served at Pollo Bravo, a restaurant we love here in Portland. In their version, radicchio is star, which we love, too, but is a little too bitter to please all of the palates that we’re usually looking to please (ahem, picky eaters, we’re looking a you). Plus, radicchio is often super expensive and, unless its in season, doesn’t look worth the extra money. Versatile, kid-friendly and widely-available year round—thanks, hydroponics!—butter lettuce is one of our very favorite salad lettuces, so making the swap was a no-brainer. If you happen to have a household full of radicchio hounds, though, feel free to try it that way, too. But anyway, back to that delicious butter lettuce...

What is Butter Lettuce?

“Butter lettuce”—or sometimes you’ll see it mentioned by the full name “butterhead lettuce”—is a term that actually encompasses a few varieties of lettuce, including Boston and Bibb lettuce. There isn’t too much variation in terms of flavor, though, so any of these lettuces that you see at the store or in the market will yield just about the same salad. Any of the lettuces in the butter lettuce family will be delicate and (you guessed it) a little sweetly buttery in flavor. That delicate, rich sweetness is why we love it so much for this salad—it makes for a perfect complement to all of the sharp, savory things we toss it with to make a super duper crave-able salad.

Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

How Do You Make Butter Lettuce Salad?

Here’s the CliffsNotes: take butter lettuce, wash it and add your favorite dressing. While that will yield a completely fine butter lettuce salad, this one has become our go-to butter lettuce salad because it utilizes bold flavors and contrasting textures to elevate a totally-fine salad to an even-my-kids-can’t-stop-eating-it salad. Here’s what give this salad it’s superstar status:

  • Castelvetrano olives: these tiny green Sicilian olives are so brightly flavored, just salty enough, and (are you tired of this word yet?) buttery, they’re the perfect fit for this salad. They add texture and their vibrant color seems to just enhance the bright green of the lettuce.
  • Panko: these crisp, airy Japanese breadcrumbs (well, technically they’re flakes, but that’s a story for another day) are always, always, always in our pantry. They lend exactly the crunch we’re looking for to just about anything we find ourselves wanting to add crunch to, including this salad. We love that they’re usually unseasoned, too, so they don’t add anything other than a gorgeous crunch.
  • Manchego: this Spanish aged sheep’s milk cheese is creamy and salty, but hard enough to shave on top of this salad for an elegant presentation as well as a super yummy hit of umami.
  • Apple cider vinegar-honey vinaigrette: tangy and so sharp, apple cider vinegar and sweet honey are a vinaigrette dream team, complementing and contrasting in ways that will make you dream of all of the other things you might drizzle this dressing on.
  • Chives: fresh herbs in salads are one of those restaurant-y tricks that just makes a salad taste so, so good. They may seem like an afterthought, but the light-as-air oniony flavor of fresh chives really brings a lot to this salad.
Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

Clean, sharp, crunchy and satisfying, our butter lettuce salad is the perfect foil for a big, rich holiday meal, giving even a prime rib feast an element of virtuousness. It’s also just as lovely as part of a lighter spread—maybe a low-key brunch with friends, starring this salad and a Spring-y five onion tart?

Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

Whenever you decide to make this salad, and whomever you decide to share it with, we want to hear about it! Snap a photo, and share it on instagram, making sure to tag us @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can see your successes!

Simple Butter Lettuce Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 heads butter lettuce, outside leaves roughly chopped
1 cup castelvetrano olives, cut in halves or quarters
1/2 cup panko
2 tbsp butter (or olive oil)
1/4 cup chives, minced
2 oz shaved manchego cheese
freshly ground pepper

dressing

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. In small bowl whisk together ingredients for the dresing. In a small skillet melt butter and add panko. Stir often over medium heat until panko is golden brown in color.
  2. Arrange butter lettuce on a large platter, shave manchego over lettuce and add olives, panko and chives. Drizzle with dressing right before serving and enjoy!