Little Gem Salad with Pancetta & Parmesan Polenta Croutons
The Egyptians first cultivated ancient greens 5000 years ago. Today lettuce grows in the international space station’s collapsible veggie growth chamber. Fairly cold hardy lettuce thrives in spring’s 60 degree temperatures. Adding textures such as crispy pancetta, baked polenta croutons with creamy centers, and tiny tomatoes turns these rather neutral tasting green into munching awesome.
Organic greens and tomatoes are of course best. However, conventional is fine if washed and dried thoroughly. Soaking the cut lettuce in icy cold water for 5 minutes before spinning dry makes for ultra crisp greens.
4 heads little gem lettuce, washed, spun dry & cut into bite size pieces
4 ounces pancetta, minced
1 pound prepared polenta
12 cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters
5 anchovy filets, mashed with a mortar & pestle
3 drops Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Add the pancetta to a 10” FRY PAN and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
3. Square off the sides and ends the polenta log and cut it into 1/2” cubes. Toss cubes in a bowl with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt. Lightly oil a HALF SHEET BAKING PAN, arrange the cubes so that they do not touch and bake for 20 or until golden and crisp on the outside. Remove from the oven, finely grate parmesan over the croutons and let cool before adding to the salad.
4. In a small glass bowl, grate garlic clove. Whisk in the mashed anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, salt, dry mustard, pepper, red wine vinegar, and yogurt. Slowly whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil into the dressing until it emulsifies.
5. In a LARGE WOODEN BOWL, toss the greens with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Finely grate the cheese over the greens and toss again.
6. Divide the greens among 4 plates, add dot with the tomatoes, parmesan croutons, and pancetta. Sprinkle with a dust of finely grated Parmesan and serve immediately.