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A green salad with oranges, red onion & stilton

Lettuce Head

4 servings

This is a refreshing and forgiving salad that stands up to strong flavors without overwhelming delicate ones. It is good, not only with rich savory puddings but also with grilled and roasted beef dishes. It does not go out of season unless you are a stringent locavore and only eat lettuce in summertime.

-4-6 cups torn greens of your choice
-about 1½ cups orange segments (see Even more notes)
-about ½ a red onion, peeled, halved and sliced into the thinnest conceivable crescents
-3-4 Tablespoons finely crumbled Stilton
-some finely chopped scallions (green tops only)
-salt and pepper to taste
-a vinaigrette of your choice in a quantity that you like

  1. Put the lettuce in a big bowl followed by the onions, orange sections, cheese and scallions.
  2. Add salt (you do want some, despite the salty cheese) and pepper, and gently toss the salad.
  3. Dress it with as much or as little vinaigrette as you like.

Even more notes:

-This salad assembly is simple but not without potential pitfalls. They involve water; the lettuce must be bone dry. They also involve the assertiveness of the onion; unless you cut the thinnest slices, it will not be much fun when you bite into it and will overwhelm everything else, destroying the balance of ingredients. A mandoline is helpful here if you are not good with knives. The pitfalls involve pith too; your orange sections must not have any; it is bitter and can have the feel of hair. The process of separating the segments and stripping them of pith is laborious, so….We admit that we almost always cheat and take a shortcut that will horrify purists, puritans and pedants. We use a can of mandarin orange segments. The ones packed in water are best but also hard to find; you can use the ones packed in light syrup if you rinse them thoroughly but gently so the sections do not disintegrate. Either way you need to drain them in a colander and ruthlessly (but still gently) pat them dry with paper towel or the salad will sag with sogginess.

-It is fine to use cheaper blue cheese but the Stilton is a treat.

-To lighten the salad, skip the cheese; you then might also substitute a handful more of minced scallion greens for the more assertive onion.

-You could add some capers if the main dish is not mild.

-We have nothing against iceberg lettuce in principle (who wants a taco without it?) but you cannot use it for this salad. Ever.

-In a further confession of apostasy, on weeknights and frantic occasions we dress this salad with stuff from a bottle; our choice is ‘Newman’s Own Caesar.’ We know better, however, and do not doubt that a brisk vinaigrette is by definition better: Several good ones marry well with this salad.

-One unusual and decidedly non-French version is a standard in the Zelnick kitchens of New York and Bedford; you can see why because it is very, very good. For reasons known to those who need to know, we call this... Driving Shoe Dressing