Little Gems with Lemony Crème Fraîche, Shallot Vinaigrette, and Italian Cheese
If my kitchen floor is evidence of anything this weekend, it’s undeniable it was one for the books. Parsley finds its way into every nook and cranny of the counter and crevice in the floor and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve swept and mopped it three times and would do it again. We hosted a little housewarming on Friday, bringing together friends from all over to mingle and christen our bar with copious amounts of tequila and red wine. My roommates and I felt loved and honored to fill the house with so many people we love. It was a great first hurrah at the little penthouse and we can’t wait to hold more. (Project Mad Men party is in progress. I will be Don Draper don’t argue with me.)
On Saturday night I finally hosted Volume I of the dinners I’ve been planning to host for months, with the help of one of my dear friends. I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again—there is something sacred about the space around a dining table. If food is the universal equalizer, dining tables are its gateway into conversation rich in vulnerability, laughter, authenticity, and usually, a lot of stories. I want that in my life, everyday, always.
This salad is exceptionally easy and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a really lovely summer salad and could pair well with various kinds of main dishes. One thing to note, is I would not skimp out on the crème fraîche here if you can have dairy. Get a good, high quality version and you won’t be sorry. If you can’t have dairy, try to find a great creamy yogurt alternative, like Culina or Coyo. If you’ve been following my Instagram Stories, you know the love I have for Culina. It’s magic in a tiny terra cotta pot.
The key to this salad is the freshest, crunchiest little gems you can find. Fresh produce speaks for itself. When you’re washing the gems, dry delicately and take care not to over massage. You want them to hold their shape as much as possible and be able to hold onto the two dressings going on top.
Little Gems with Lemony Crème Fraîche, Peppercorns, and Italian Cheese
3-4 large handfulls little gems, washed and dried
about 1/4 of a large red onion, sliced very thin
1/2 cup parmesan, pecorino romano, asiago or a mix of all three
freshly cracked peppercorns (peppercorn grinder works fine)
For the Lemon Crème Fraîche
4 T creme fraice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2-1 t honey
For the Shallot Vinaigrette
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T good quality olive oil
2 t honey
juice 1 of 1 lemon
1 t minced shallot
salt and pepper to taste
First, make the dressing and make sure to emulsify. It might take a bit, but whisk a fork into it and it will blend nicely.
Next, mix the creme fraiche, lemon, honey, and salt. Stir well. Once combined, add water in by 1/4 t at a time. I think I only ended up adding about 1/2 t or 1 t. It should still feel a bit thick, but be able to freely run off the spoon in a nice stream.
Place washed gems in a large bowl and put onion throughout so there is not a pile of onion on top. It should feel rustic but still equally dispersed. Then, add large chunks of cheese just like onion, reserving a bit for the final sprinkle at the end.
Drizzle vinaigrette throughout salad, pouring some onto the sides and under the gems, not just on top. Little gems catch dressings like little baby spoons, so for this it’s to place the dressing not just drizzle and toss.
To drizzle the creme fraiche, start at one side of the bowl and move around in a circle. Use about 1/2 the mixture to start and see if you’d like more. I only use about 1/2 at a time per salad.
Finally, sprinkle with remaining cheese and add fresh cracked pepper.