Herby, Garlicky, Lemony Romaine Lettuce Salad

Romaine lettuce is my favourite salad leaf. The pale green leaves are so buttery and full of flavour I love to eat them on their own. The heart including the crunchy stem is always a treat. It usually doesn’t get to make its way into the salad bowl!

Romaine is the most popular salad leaf in Iran. The huge heads of romaine from Mazandaran in the Caspian Sea region are really fab. Even in old days when veg and salad weren’t so readily available all year round the romaine was always there to grace and cheer up the dinner table.

There is quite a lot of herbs in my salad. That’s quite a Persian thing. We don’t only cook or garnish with fresh herbs. We eat them like salad. No proper Persian meal is ever complete without a bowl or basket of mixed fresh herbs, radishes and spring onions (sabzī khordan). I’ll write about sabzī khordan in another post. But here is a peak of what it looks like:

sabzī khordan
sabzī khordan

The winter version of my mum’s green salad usually had romaine, cooked barlotti beans, chopped boiled eggs, cubed boiled fingerling potatoes and was dressed with plain lemon juice. There was always sabzī khordan and her crunchy herb and garlic flvaoured vegetable pickles too.

My garlicky, herby, lemony romaine salad celebrates all the gorgeousness of the crisp leaves of romaine, the flavours of my childhood and the dazzling colourful British summers. The tart, lemony dressing makes this salad a perfect accompaniment to any strongly flavoured meat, chicken or fish. It’s excellent as a palate cleanser. Perfect for BBQs too.

There are many types of cucumbers. I prefer the small ones with thinner skin. They are really sweet and smell so “cucumbery”. I Score the skin of the cucumbers with the tongs of a sharp fork before slicing them. This releases the aromatics in the skin and the slices look prettier too.

Small cucumbers scored with sharp tongs of fork and sliced.
Small cucumbers scored with sharp tongs of fork and sliced.

Adding nasturtium petals to the salad gives it a bit of a kick and colour. Nasturtiums come in bright orange, yellow and reds and have a mild peppery flavour. The leaves taste sharper than the flowers. You can use tiny nasturtium leaves too, if you wish.

Edible flower- Naturtiums are good in salads. They have a mild peppery flavour.
Edible flower- Naturtiums are good in salads. Have a mild peppery flavour.

Make sure to wash the lettuce, herbs and flowers in plenty of cold water well. Spread them on clean tea towels to dry or spin gently in a salad spinner (the flowers are delicate, just air dry on a towel so the petals don’t get bruised). Add the dressing just before serving so your salad doesn’t get soggy.

To make a large bowl of this gorgeous salad to serve six people you will need:

  • Leaves from a large head of romaine (or two small), torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small Persian/Lebanese/Turkish cucumbers or half an English cucumber
  • A handful of mint leaves, torn into pieces
  • A handful of dill fronds, torn into smaller pieces
  • A handful of tarragon leaves
  • a handful of chives, cut into 2 cm pieces
  • 5-6 large radishes
  • A few nasturtium flowers (optional)

For the dressing:

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled (half a clove if the garlic smells too strong)
  • juice of one large lemon
  • pinch of salt (smoked if possible)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • pinch of sugar (if you are not a big fan of sharp, tart dressings)
  1. Finely grate the garlic and mix with the olive oil. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a small jar and discard the garlic pulp. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried dill and dried mint. Shake well and set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the radishes.
  3. Use a fork to score the skin of the cucumbers. Place the fork at one end of the cucumber and pressing with a little pressure pull the fork all the way down to the other end. Repeat until the entire skin is scored. Slice thinly.
  4. Toss the romaine and herbs with the sliced radishes and cucumbers in a large bowl and scatter the nasturtium petals on the salad.
  5. Just before serving add the dressing and toss well to coat.

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