How odd, yet not unlike me, to vividly remember my first experience with a wedge salad. It was 2003, our first time ever in Walt Disney World, a late night dinner after a very long day of travel. My children were running on excitement overload.
I just wanted a decent meal.
I promptly ordered the first item on the menu: an iceberg lettuce wedge salad with blue cheese dressing. I wasn’t sure how much a wedge of lettuce would thrill me but let me just say that salad..THAT SALAD! Cold and crunchy, draped in a rich creamy dressing. Forget about getting the Little Mermaid’s autograph, I had already found my magic at Disney World.
When BelGioioso asked me to create a special holiday salad using one or two of their cheeses, I knew a creamy gorgonzola dressing would take center stage. And what better way to showcase this dressing than serve it over a wedge of cold, crisp romaine lettuce. The dressing I created features their CreamyGorg® which is a multi award winning creamy, gorgonzola cheese. Its richness provides the perfect counterpart to the chilled romaine lettuce, bright tomatoes and salty pancetta. An Italian twist on the iceberg wedge salad I first enjoyed years ago.
I also love a little toasty bread with my salads, but croutons don’t really work with the wedge concept. Instead, I decided on little garlic toasts featuring BelGioioso’s American Grana®. Seriously, I nearly devoured the entire batch before I could get a photo.
This salad is perfect for holiday entertaining. The presentation is unique and has that “wow” factor. All the elements of the salad can be made well in advance. Just assemble and serve on chilled plates. Also, consider making a double batch of the dressing and serving it with fresh vegetables as an appetizer.
Like Disney World for the first time, it’s pure magic.
Romaine Wedge Salad with Creamy Gorgonzola Dressing and Garlic-Parmesan Toasts
½ cup BelGioiso® CreamyGorg® Cheese (Gorgonzola Dolce), rind removed
⅓ cup mayonnaise
⅓ cup crème fraiche (or sour cream)
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
2 medium heads of romaine lettuce
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
4 oz. diced pancetta
1 TBS finely chopped fresh chives
1 demi baguette (or ½ of a regular sized loaf)
4 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
For dressing, place ⅓ cup of the gorgonzola cheese in a medium bowl (reserve remaining cheese to sprinkle on salad). Mash with a fork until creamy. Add remaining ingredients. Using a wire whisk, blend ingredients until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For best results, let dressing chill overnight.
Brown pancetta in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.
For salad, trim the leafy ends and stem off each head of lettuce. Remove any tough outer leaves and cut each head in half, lengthwise. Rinse under cool water and thoroughly dry. Wrap in paper towels and place in gallon, zipper bags, squeezing out excess air. Refrigerate for an hour or two until well chilled (lettuce will also stay fresh if stored like this for several days).
While lettuce is chilling, prepare garlic toasts. Preheat oven to 425°. Slice baguette on the diagonal into long, thin slices. Combine butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread butter mixture onto each slice of bread. Place, butter side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until just golden, about 5-6minutes. Remove and set aside.
To assemble salad, lay romaine hearts on a chilled serving platter or individual salad plates. Top with tomatoes and onions. Pour dressing over, then top with crumbled pancetta, the remainder of the gorgonzola cheese (crumbled), and the chopped chives. Serve with garlic toasts on the side.
TIPS and IDEAS
- The key to any wedge salad is to have all the ingredients well chilled and assembled just before serving. If possible, chill salad plates as well.
- Pre-packaged romaine spears may also be used as well. Rinse and chill as described in the recipe.
- To tame the bite of raw onions, let the slices soak in a bowl of ice water for about ten minutes. Drain and add to salad.
- To lighten up the dressing a bit, substitute reduced fat mayonnaise and/or sour cream.
- Dressing and salad ingredients can all be prepared ahead. For the toasts, the Garlic/Parmesan butter may be prepared up to a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator or frozen. Bring to room temperature before spreading on bread and baking.
- The Creamy Gorgonzola Dressing makes a wonderful dip for fresh vegetables, crackers, chips or even Buffalo Wings. Feel free to add some fresh parsley or chives for color and even a pinch of cayenne pepper.