A Salad With Sass: Lemon-Caper Dressing Recipe
In cooler months it’s easy to get lulled into the complacency of just keeping those ubiquitous pre-washed baby greens on hand for our almost daily salads. But come summer when there are such a lovely variety of greens to choose from, that seems downright criminal. Summer lettuce definitely tastes different; the flavors so vibrant they barely need to be dressed. Sweet, tender butter lettuce is one that can easily get away with just a kiss of dressing, especially when you use something as sassy as the lemon-caper version that is my latest favorite thing. Just reading through the recipe initially made my eyes widen and lips pucker. It called for an eye-popping amount of lemon, including whole segments, along with a pile of shallots, capers and Dijon mustard – I wondered if it might not pack a little too much punch. But the raves on the blogosphere convinced me this was something to try. Besides, the recipe was easy, it combined flavors I love, and my freshly harvested lettuce was crying out for it.
The chef whose cookbook this hails from serves this salad with a deep-fried pig’s ear that is first braised in duck fat! And while I could see how all that fatty goodness would completely complement the salad dressing’s intensely bright flavors, this is precisely the type of over-the-top cooking I like to enjoy in restaurants. So I opted for the rich, buttery oils of an avocado to balance my dressing’s inaugural salad of maroon-tipped butter lettuce. Avocado did indeed round out those flavors nicely, but what really brought our meal together was pairing this salad with grilled chicken thighs. The crisp, oily skin wrapped in sweet lettuce leaves and tinged with the bold flavors of lemon, caper and Dijon was pretty incredible. It was then I understood how sublime the restaurant version must be and I raised my glass to April Bloomfield for teaching me something new.
This dressing is wonderful on grilled summer squash and I’d imagine would perk up most grilled veggies. It also made a delicious marinade for prawns that we skewered and grilled.
Adapted from April Bloomfield’s cookbook: A Girl and Her Pig
- 2 medium lemons
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped shallots
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (choose one whose flavor you like on its own)
- 2 Tbsp drained capers, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt or fleur de sel (I used the latter)
- 1/2 tsp superfine sugar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Segment the lemons over a bowl to catch the juices (see note below). Set aside. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into a separate bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir well.
- Add the lemon segments and toss gently to coat them without breaking them up too much. Use straightaway or chill in the fridge, covered, for up to an hour.
To segment the lemons, use a sharp knife to cut off just enough of the fruit's top and bottom to expose a full circle of the flesh on either end. Stand the lemon on one of its ends, place your knife point at the seam where the fruit meets the pith, and use a gentle sawing motion to cut away a wide strip of pith and skin, following the curve of the fruit from top to bottom. Repeat the process until all you have left is a nice, round, naked fruit. If you've missed any white pith, trim it off. Make a cut down either side of each segment, right against the membrane, and gently pry out each segment, one at a time (see slideshow). Flick out any seeds, and set the segments aside in a bowl, reserving the juicy membranes.