Iceberg lettuce has fallen into deep disfavor with many cooks and food-lovers. Memories of bad, bland salads from our youth, and pale excuses for greenery on the plates of low-rent restaurants have pushed iceberg to the side in favor of more interesting greens: arugula, romaine, spicy microgreens.
But iceberg still has a place, and in the heat of summer I crave it like no other lettuce. Shaved thin, in a feathery pile, iceberg lettuce offers crisp, pure refreshment. In this salad, my own take on the Italian-American chopped salads of pizza parlors and pasta joints, iceberg shines.
Yes, this is a nod to those classic "Italian chopped salads" you find in pizza places all over the country, with their iceberg lettuce drenched in Italian dressing (out of a bottle) and with a handful of canned black olives thrown on top. I confess I rather like these salads; the best of them are crisp, refreshing, and running with juices. They are also easy eating; no big pieces of carrot or unwieldy greens to deal with.
I have been craving a salad inspired by these, but I wanted mine punched up just a bit, so I added radicchio (for a pleasant bitterness) and a lemon caper dressing that gives a salty tang to the proceedings. Ricotta salata is ricotta's firmer cousin (see more about ricotta salata here); it crumbles beautifully and has a gentle milkiness. You can substitute feta, if you want, although that will increase the saltiness of the salad and you may need to adjust the seasoning accordingly.
My husband and I love the cold, crisp, completely unfussy salad at great, hole-in-the-wall joints. Our ritual, regardless of the pizza spot we're at, is to share one before the pie arrives. This salad from Faith hits the mark on everything a good pizza-joint salad should be. It's loaded with crunchy iceberg lettuce, a bit of bitter radicchio for color and contrast, salty treats like olives and crumbled cheese, and then tossed in the most irresistible tangy lemon caper dressing. Now we can enjoy our unfussy favorite at home before pizza nights in our own kitchen.
- Sheela, March 2018
Every Pizza Place Salad
- For the salad:
1 small head
pitted Kalamata olives, halved
ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
cherry tomatoes, halved
Freshly ground black pepper
- For the dressing:
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Quarter the iceberg and radicchio through the core, then cut the cores from each piece. If you have a mandoline, use it to shave each quarter into very, very thin shavings. If you do not have a mandoline, very thinly slice the lettuce and radicchio crosswise with a very sharp knife, keeping the shavings as thin as possible. Place in a large bowl.
Add the olives and about 2/3 of the ricotta salata and toss to combine; set aside.
Make the dressing: Place all the ingredients in a measuring cup or bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle over the lettuce, then gently toss until the lettuce is well-coated. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Transfer the salad to a platter. Scatter the cherry tomatoes and remaining ricotta salata over the top. Grind extra black pepper on top, and serve the salad very cold.
Ricotta salata substitution: Use feta cheese if ricotta salata is not available.
Make ahead: The dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Rewhisk before using.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.