I love this salad so much that I’ve actually written about it twice.
As a teenager I was a jerk. It’s not like I was unique in my obnoxiousness, I was pretty much like most other angsty teens. I was sullen and withdrawn, too cool for everything, especially things that involved family. And the things I wasn’t too cool for I acted too cool for in an effort to disguise how awkward I felt.
A few years before I fell into this black hole of angst I had been happy to go up to Maine on weekends to visit my mom’s friend Darby and her family. They spend their weekends in a home they’ve built themselves in what can only be called the middle of nowhere, just over the New Hampshire border into Maine and near very little in terms of landmarks. Their home is warm and welcoming and as a 12 year old it was pretty much heaven. But a few years later it was a fight to get me to visit. I felt too cool to hang out with my little brother or my mom and the other adults in the house (and they wanted some time away from me because I was oh-so-pleasant) and too awkward to hang out with Darby’s sons who are a few years older than me. Those years felt so much bigger at 14 than they do now. I invited myself to friends houses to avoid going to Maine and when I couldn’t find an alternative I would grudingly join my family, doing my best to inflict my misery on as many people around me as possible. Teenagers are just lovely.
The saving grace of these visits for me was meals. There was always a crowd around the table with friends visiting for the weekend and neighbors stopping by for a meal and there would always be a salad on the table. It was a particular salad with greens, mandarin orange slices, and garlicky balsamic dressing. Despite the anxiety I felt during the rest of the weekend, the salad was comforting and familiar and covered in dressing and at a time when I didn’t like anything, I liked this salad. I still do, with fresh clementine slices and some sliced almonds tossed in too.
The star of this salad is really the dressing – everything else is just support. Balsamic dressing is usually sweeter but this one is tempered with plenty of mustard and garlic. The flavors are mirrored in the tangy-sweet citrus and the almonds give some textural contrast – although croutons would be equally delicious. Served as a side or topped with chicken or fish for a light meal, it will even please the angsty teenagers in your midst.
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (I use a microplane)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 head of butter lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Segments from 3-4 clementines, more if you want
COMBINE mustard, garlic, balsamic vinegar, oil, and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl or jar until emulsified.
TOSS lettuce, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, almonds, and clementine segments in a salad bowl with a few spoonfuls of the dressing. Add more if needed and serve immediately.
This recipe makes more dressing than you need for the salad but the leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.