Butter Lettuce with Grapes, Hazelnuts and Maytag Blue

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I always imagine the inside of my brain as a constant swirling stream of ingredients and recipes.  Eating dinner one night while simultaneously planning the next dinner, looking at spices blends on my counter and thinking “I need to try those sometime on …”  Browsing internet food blogs with a copy of Fine Cooking at my side, pausing to check into the Cooking Channel from time to time.

Somehow in all this mental mayhem,  dishes like this come to be.

Earlier this week, I threw some green grapes into a butter lettuce salad and I loved them.  Then night before last, I made some amazing pasta with a lemon mascarpone sauce and chopped hazelnuts.  Ahhhh…hazelnuts.  I started thinking about butter lettuce, grapes and hazelnuts together and got excited.  But there must be cheese.  Goat cheese?  Too tart.  Blue cheese?  Perfect!  Especially a bright Maytag blue.  With chives in my garden and some homemade white balsamic vinaigrette in the fridge, the pieces all came together.

A salad was created out of the mass hysteria that is my food brain.   And what a salad it was, if I do say so myself. Beautiful color, contrasting textures and fresh flavors.  And best of all I managed to concentrate for a whole twenty minutes or so to write this post.

…while watching the Blackhawks game on TV.

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Butter Lettuce with Grapes, Hazelnuts and Maytag Blue

5 cups of torn butter lettuce (about 7 oz.)

1 cup red grapes, cut in half

2/3 cup Maytag blue cheese (or any other blue veined cheese)

½ cup coarsely chopped shelled and toasted hazelnuts (see note)

1 TBS chopped chives or scallions

Coarsely ground black pepper

White Balsamic Dressing

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp coarse black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl or alternatively, place in a jar, cover and shake.

Wash butter lettuce and spin dry.  Place on serving plates and top with cheese, grapes, hazelnuts.  Drizzle a little of the dressing over and sprinkle with additional pepper and chives and serve.

Serves 4

Note> Some stores, like Trader Joes, sell shelled and roasted, unsalted hazelnuts. Big timesaver!  If you can only find ones with the papery skins, proceed as follows:

Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 375°F oven. Toast for about 12 minutes until lightly browned.  Transfer them while they’re hot to a clean kitchen towel. (Use a clean towel that is old or you don’t mind washing with bleach, because the skins tend to discolor the fabric.) Gather the towel into a bundle and rub the hazelnuts to remove most or all of the skin.  


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