The Ultimate Dinner Party Salad: Mile-High Salad with Hazelnuts, Parmesan, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

published Sep 18, 2021
Mile High Salad With Hazelnuts, Parmesan, and Red Wine Vinaigrette Recipe

This is the ultimate dinner party salad: you can prep it in advance, it's a guaranteed crowdpleaser, and it's wildly impressive.

Serves4 to 6

Prep20 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 12 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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salad on blue linen next to other plates of salad
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner; Prop Styling: Paige Hicks

When we think about impressive dinner party recipes, golden roast chickens, abundant bowls of homemade pasta, or elaborate desserts come to mind. But what if I told you the most impressive thing on your dinner party table could actually be the salad?

The thing about dinner party salads is that they often get overlooked (i.e.. it’s often a sad bowl of greens with bottled dressing). But a salad — just like the main course and dessert — has the ability to be a showstopper. With a little bit of planning and some simple-yet-flavorful additions, you can create a salad that will have your guests swooning. Here’s how.

The Easiest Way to Impress a Crowd with Salad (Yes, Salad)

This dish is inspired by the popular salad from New York restaurant Via Carota that went viral for its dramatic mile-high plating. Our version, made with bitter greens, tender butter lettuce, grated Parmesan, and hazelnuts, is equally impressive — and just as tall. Everything gets tossed in a simple red wine vinaigrette made with tangy Dijon mustard and minced shallots, then piled high onto a plate like lettuce Jenga. It’s an unexpected way to serve salad, taking it from a supporting side to center stage.

How to Prep This Salad in Advance

The great thing about this salad is that you can prep almost all of the components ahead of time so there’s less work to do once your guests arrive.

  • The vinaigrette can be made up to four days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. When it’s time to use it, simply whisk or shake to combine.
  • The hazelnuts can be toasted up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. (Or you can buy toasted hazelnuts from the store.)
  • The Parmesan cheese can be grated up to four days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge, or you can buy pre-grated cheese.
  • The salad greens can be prepped several hours before the party starts — just wash and tear them, then lay them onto a paper towel-lined sheet tray in the fridge. This way, once the party starts, all you have to do is toss them into a bowl; add the already-prepped dressing, cheese, and nuts; and give it a toss.

Mile High Salad With Hazelnuts, Parmesan, and Red Wine Vinaigrette Recipe

This is the ultimate dinner party salad: you can prep it in advance, it's a guaranteed crowdpleaser, and it's wildly impressive.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 12 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium shallot

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 cup

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon

    honey

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 2/3 cup

    hazelnuts

  • 4 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (3 cups)

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh dill

  • 1 medium head

    butter lettuce (about 8 ounces)

  • 1 medium head

    red radicchio (about 8 ounces)

  • 1 medium head

    red leaf lettuce, or 1 medium romaine lettuce heart (about 12 ounces)

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper if desired. Finely chop 1 medium shallot (about 3 tablespoons), mince 2 garlic cloves, and place both into a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and whisk to combine.

  2. Place 2/3 cup hazelnuts on the baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and lightly browned, 8 to 11 minutes. Immediately wrap the toasted hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skins as possible (don’t worry about any skin that doesn’t easily come off). Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and let cool.

  3. Meanwhile, finely grate 4 ounces Parmesan cheese with a Microplane (about 3 cups) and coarsely chop 1/2 bunch fresh dill (about 1/3 cup). Once the hazelnuts are cool, coarsely chop.

  4. Tear 1 head butter lettuce, 1 head red radicchio, and 1 head red leaf lettuce or romaine heart into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the dill, half the hazelnuts, and half the Parmesan, and toss to combine. (If your bowl is not big enough, feel free to use 2 bowls and split the ingredients between them.) Add half the vinaigrette and gently toss so the lettuce is completely coated. Taste a piece of lettuce and dress with more vinaigrette as needed.

  5. Arrange the salad in a tall pile on a serving plate. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts, Parmesan, and more freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The vinaigrette can be made 4 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Whisk or briskly shake before using.

Storage: Leftover vinaigrette can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.