A seasonal strawberry salad.
The best salads are seasonal. Come spring and summer, this fresh strawberry salad recipe is what you should make. Bibb lettuce stacked high and topped with plenty of fresh strawberries, cucumber, and creamy buttermilk herb dressing, this strawberry salad makes a great dish for any occasion.
Why This Strawberry Salad Recipe Works
Spinach strawberry salad may be the most common variety of this ilk, but this recipe uses fresh Bibb lettuce instead, for an even better — and better-looking — result.
I like a salad with lots of ingredients, but not a lot of complication. So for crunch, texture, and even more color, I also add thinly-sliced cucumber and watermelon radishes. Watermelon radishes taste milder than their little, white-fleshed siblings, and have a gorgeous pink interior. If you cannot find watermelon radishes, leave them out or use “regular” radishes.
The dressing for this summer strawberry salad recipe consists of fresh, low-fat buttermilk combined simply with a little salt, pepper, fresh chives, lemon, and dijon. The white color plays off the green and pink in a really beautiful way, and adds just the right savory tang.
Why Choose Bibb Lettuce? What About Substitutions?
Raw spinach, while healthy and vivid green, can have a slightly tough, almost rubbery texture. Fresh Bibb lettuce on the other hand, with its soft texture and large, elegant leaves, tastes crisp but not tough. The large leaves let you create a stacked, layered salad instead of a basic tossed salad. This adds height, and heightens the classiness just a bit.
That said, you do not have to use the Bibb lettuce. Though widely available, spinach could be used here, as could spring mix or arugula (for a more peppery note).
For lettuce substitutions, I would stay away from iceberg or romaine lettuce. The high moisture content and super-crisp texture will not complement the strawberries very well.
How to Make This Strawberry Salad
Bibb lettuce (also known as butter lettuce) usually comes attached to its root ball. Cut the leaves from the base of the head of lettuce so that the leaves stay nice and large. Rinse and dry them fully on paper towels or a clean dish towel. Wet lettuce leaves will not absorb the dressing, and leave puddles of water on the plate.
While the lettuce dries, cut the strawberries into quarters, and thinly slice cucumbers and the watermelon radish. I use the narrowest setting on a mandoline, and like this simple OXO hand-held one because of its safety grip and ease of use. But if you do not have a mandoline, you can easily slice the vegetables on a cutting board with a knife.
Make the buttermilk dressing in a small bowl, whisking all the ingredients together. The chives should be minced very small.
Finally, assemble the strawberry salad! Create a stacked salad by layering a lettuce leaf, then a sprinkle of strawberries and vegetables, then some dressing. Repeat the layering until you have a salad maybe three or four lettuce leaves high. This recipe will make two salads.
Summer Strawberry Salad: Recipe Tips and Suggestions
One of my favorite pro tips ever is to make the watermelon radishes curl. This gives them an elegant, wavy look to match the shape and body of the Bibb lettuce. Here’s how to curl watermelon radishes:
- Peel the radish. You do not have to peel watermelon radishes as a general rule, but I recommend it here because it helps the edges curl.
- Slice the watermelon radish as thinly as possible. Almost paper thin is the goal — again, a mandoline helps with this.
- Place the slices in a large bowl of ice water for about 15 to 20 minutes and watch the magic.
- Cut the strawberries shortly before serving so they do not oxidize and dry out.
- The dressing can be made up to three days in advance. It may thicken slightly, so just give it a little whisk with a fork before using.
You’ll also like: Fresh Spring Pea Soup and Perfect Strawberry Shortcakes
Summer Strawberry Salad
For the Buttermilk Dressing
- 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons good mayonnaise, such as Hellmann's
- 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, minced (can leave out)
- 1/4 cup minced chives, plus more to garnish (from about one small bunch)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 6 turns fresh-cracked black pepper
For the Strawberry Salad and to Finish
- 1 head Bibb lettuce
- 1 cup thinly-sliced English or Persian cucumber, skin on (about half an English cuke or 2 Persian)
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, tops removed, halved or quartered depending on size
- 1 medium watermelon radish, peeled and sliced super thin
- Whisk together all of the buttermilk dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cut the Bibb lettuce from the root ball, keeping all the large leave intact. Gently rinse the lettuce leaves and dry fully on paper towels or clean kitchen towels.
- Prepare the strawberries and vegetables. Hull and quarter the strawberries. Slice the cucumbers to about 1/8" thick. Set aside. If you use English or Persian cucumbers, you do not have to peel them. Peel and slice the watermelon radish as thinly as humanly possible. Place the radish slices in a bowl of ice water and refrigerate for 15 minutes or so. (This can be done up to a day in advance.)PRO TIP: Letting your radish slices swim around in ice water causes them to curl and ripple in a really beautiful way that matches the shape of the Bibb lettuce.
- To assemble the salad: Place a lettuce leaf on the bottom of the plate. Sprinkle with a few cucumbers and strawberries, a radish slice or two, and a spoonful of dressing. Repeat two or three more times, stacking the salad and toppings as you go. Top the salad with a final sprinkle of berries, cukes, radish curls, and dressing. Garnish with the reserved chives. Serve immediately.