Dishes and Wishes

Recipes and Culinary Commentary

German Butter Lettuce Sunflower Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Yesterday on the way back from my favorite place in Rhode Island, Sakonnet Point, I stopped by Walker’s Farm stand. We didn’t need any type of lettuce, but I am easily seduced by fresh vegetables and they had beautiful, bigger than your head-sized butter lettuce and I couldn’t help myself. Butter lettuce (also known as Boston Bibb) is my favorite lettuce green after mâche (Valerianella locusta), which is rich in omegas. Though totally different in appearance, they share a similar mouthfeel: sweet, chewy crispness. I’m not sure how good butter lettuce is for you, and I don’t really care because it tastes amazing.

This salad pretty much stolen from my friend’s grandmother, who probably didn’t know it was the number one reason in my head for getting out of bed before noon. Dan’s grandparents ran a Gasthaus, which is more a roadside inn than a B&B, in the Black Forest for many years. She was an AMAZING cook. Dan and I were not eating meat at that time and despite the fact that it was Germany, it was one of my most gastronomically-impressive trips ever. My (vegetarian) sister spent a year in Germany, first in Regensburg and then in Berlin, and she reports detesting most of the food in Bavaria. [Insert Bavarian joke here.] I think it’s mostly the fact that she wasn’t having two meals a day at the Schillinger haus. This recipe’s decidated to the Schillingers, of Himmelreich, because today is their grandson, Dan’s, opening of his first restaurant at the Blue Inn at North Fork, Long Island. (Restaurant link will be added when they put up a site.)

The Salad

  • Head of Butter Lettuce
  • Halved and sliced cucumber (peeled if waxed)
  • A tomato or two
  • optional: fresh or canned corn (it’s a Euro thing, and it grew on me… but not on pizza!), onion slices, light parsley
  • tablespoon of sunflower seeds

Tear apart, wash, and dry as much lettuce as you want. For variety, feel free to add in some other non-bitter greens, but this is meant to be a simple salad, nothing fancy, folks. Volken. Sorry. Chop your cuke. Because I had some extra time, I salted the cucumber slices and put them in a strainer to help dehydrate them and not leech cuke juices into the salad. Slice the tomato in thin wedges. Chill everything until you’re ready to dress and serve. (But do not chill tomatoes too long or they get nasty. NOTHING worse than a refrigerated tomato, IMHO.)

Yogurt Dressing

  • Canola, safflower, vegetable or sunflower seed oil (most ideal
  • Half teaspoon of Dijon or senf, German mustard (not honey mustard)
  • Plain yogurt, Greek is best, but all will work (in a pinch you can use sour cream or crème fraiche though obviously that adds fat)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 of a lemon’s juice
  • Rice vinegar (this isn’t authentic but not sure what kind of vinegar she used, will report on how it is with Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • salt and pepper
  • optional: dash of Maggi (which is German soy sauce; seriously, folks, that’s how they get their MSG in and get those potato salads to taste right), a bit of minced garlic (too much will taste like a low-fat aioli, which is good but too garlicky for most people)
Pour some oil into a bowl. Sunflower seed oil tastes the best, but it’s not as commonly used over here, so use whatever mild-tasting oil you want that’s not olive. Or heck, use olive, it’s not like it’s gonna taste bad. Unless you use Colavita, which is so bitter it nearly make my lips curl involuntarily. You’ll need a little less oil than you normally would for a dressing because the yogurt’s really gonna spring into action here. Add mustard, stir, then add your plain yogurt in, first a teaspoon, maybe another, or two I don’t know what size of salad you’re making. Even with some vigilant stirring, it’s going to be a bit lumpy at this stage. I’d say for measuring the yogurt, start off with two times more than the amount of mustard you used. If you’re using garlic, add it at this stage. Now add your acids. First put in your lemon juice, for a smaller salad (like for 2-4 people) I’d use 1/4 a lemon, and half for a larger salad. Then add rice vinegar as you whisk the dressing into a tangy, white emulsified beauty. Season, taste, and enjoy.

Play-pretending at the DDR Museum, Berlin

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