In my Harvest Monday post yesterday I described a lettuce called Tom Thumb, and mentioned that we used it in a nice salad. This is the nice salad. The inspiration for it came from a book called "Around the world in salads - 120 ways to love your leaves" by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi.
Obviously, it starts with a good lettuce, and a suitably firm one at that. Tom Thumb has quite a crisp heart, more robust than many butterhead types, so it served the purpose well. A "normal" butterhead lettuce might be too soft, because as you will see, it gets subjected to hot oil treatment!
You also need a soft blue cheese. The official recipe calls for Gorgonzola, but we used a local cheese called Woolbury Blue made by the Artisan Dairy Ltd, based near Southampton. Further to this you need some toasted pine-nuts, some bacon or pancetta cut into lardons, some olive oil and some red wine vinegar.
Start by preparing your lettuce in the normal way. We use a salad-spinner to dry the leaves after washing. Then arrange it in a wide bowl or a plate with a deep rim, and scatter over it the toasted pine-nuts and pieces of cheese.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in the olive oil, until crisp at the edges. This is one of the few occasions on which it is a good idea to use your best Extra Virgin olive oil, because the oil is not just a cooking medium, it gets used as the salad dressing too. When the lardons are ready, add to the oil a generous splash of red wine vinegar (about two tablespoons).
While this is happening, make sure that everything else is ready for instant action, because the salad does need to be eaten very soon after the dressing is applied.
Pour the bacon and hot oil over the salad:
Eat immediately, before the lettuce wilts too much.
We served our salad with toasted slices of home-made bloomer bread, slathered with garlic butter.
OK, so it's not the healthiest of salads, but My Goodness, it's a tasty one! Of course you could serve it without the bacon and dressing if you wanted to...