I used to work for Universal Music Group where, amongst many other responsibilities, I did a lot of online marketing for Verve, the jazz label. It was during one holiday season back then that I came up with the idea for this gorgeous salad. I’m sure the vocal and instrumental improvisations I listened to all day long at the office helped fuel this creative mixture of foods you might never think to put together. As beautiful to look at as it is to eat, it will make a vivacious presentation on the holiday table. You’re guests might even start scatting a bit after tasting it’s unexpected rhythms and flavorful syncopations.
Now, you can get creative and use dried cherries instead of cranberries, or prosciutto in place of pancetta, but in order for this salad to work as it should you must do two things:
1. Do not substitute another lettuce for the butter lettuce. It is the tenderness of the leaves that lets the other ingredients delightfully steal the show.
2. Toss the dressing into the salad. When you do, the goat cheese begins to break down, creating this amazingly creamy texture and enhanced flavor. To pour dressing over it would be a true disappointment for a salad as festive as this.
1/4 lb. package good quality sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
2 heads Boston butter lettuce (also called bib lettuce)
1 7-8 oz. package good quality chevre (fresh goat cheese)
1 cup walnut halves
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 can mandarin oranges packed in juice or 3 satsuma tangerines
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
raspberry vinaigrette dressing to taste (tossed with salad)
pink himalayan salt
edible flowers (optional)
1. Cook the pancetta in a heavy skillet over medium heat until slightly crispy but not burned. Drain the excess grease by placing the cooked pancetta on a paper towel. Set aside.
2. Place parchment or baking paper over a baking sheet and set it near the stove (on a burner that is not being used is perfect.) Pour the walnut halves and brown sugar into a non-stick skillet and stir constantly until the sugar melts and the walnuts are completely coated. It should not take any longer than 5 minutes, and if you smell anything resembling burning, remove the pan from the flame and scoop the nuts out immediately. Arrange the nuts on the baking sheet, working quickly and carefully to make sure they do not clump together. Sprinkle a little salt over the top. Don’t start eating them all, just set them aside to cool. (That’s why we made extra! I know you’ll taste. Who wouldn’t? )
3. Wash and pat dry the Boston butter lettuce. Tear the leaves from the head and put them in the largest and most attractive salad bowl you own.
4. Crumble the cooled pancetta over the lettuce. Add the cooled walnuts and toss.
5. Drain and add the mandarin oranges, or add the fresh satsuma tangerines which have no seeds.
6. Wash the raspberries, drain them in a colander, and add them to the salad.
7. Add the dried fruit and toss the salad again.
8. Crumble the chevre (fresh goat cheese) over the salad.
9. Add the raspberry vinaigrette dressing lightly and toss. Go easy, as adding too much will spoil the light flavors. If you use a bottled dressing, I suggest using Girard’s Raspberry Dressing or Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette. You can also easily make your own by adding 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp. fresh raspberries and salt and pepper to a food processor or blender and quickly pulsing the ingredients until blended.
10. Enjoy this salad while listening to your favorite jazz artist, or your favorite holiday music. Set the ambience for this taste sensation.
Note: Oh! This is the recipe that has been our cover photo on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DancingHorseCinema for months now. It’s just too pretty to take down.