A fresh, crisp salad is a thing of beauty, even in winter. This light, colorful red and green salad with creamy pesto dressing is perfect for the holiday season, when it’s easy to get overwhelmed by heavy, high-calorie foods. It’s a fantastic Christmas salad, or a simple, appealing go-to salad any time of year.
I’m a fan of crisp iceberg lettuce, especially in winter. I’m not sure why winter seems like the perfect time for iceberg – maybe it’s the name. This salad recipe also uses red leaf lettuce for color, delicate texture and earthy flavor.
When making tossed green salads like this one, the secret to success is prepping the lettuce. Don’t be afraid to throw away the outside leaves that have started to wilt and turn brown. Also, don’t be afraid to get rid of the tough, thick core sections. Use the tender, leafy parts of the lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces so you aren’t trying to cram a whole lettuce leaf into your mouth.
We all know it’s important to wash lettuce. It’s also important to get the lettuce leaves dry. Soggy salad is no bueno.
You can wash the lettuce leaves with cool running water in a colander, then place them on a clean kitchen towel. Gently roll up the towel and wait five minutes or so for the leaves to dry. You can also use a salad spinner, one of the handiest kitchen gadgets for salad making. I recommend this inexpensive OXO salad spinner. Just DON’T put your salad spinner in the dishwasher. It can easily become warped, and then it won’t spin properly anymore. I know this from sad experience.
For this red and green holiday salad, I chose crunchy veggies you can get fresh regardless of the season: cucumbers, radishes, celery, and bell peppers.
When making tossed salad, I can never decide whether it’s better to have the cucumber peeled or unpeeled. I usually peel the cucumbers in a stripe pattern, so some but not all the peel is included. The half peeled cucumber is then sliced, and the slices cut in half so they are easy to eat.
Now that we have the leafy and crunchy salad elements, we can add some tender, sweet elements. Sweet, juicy grape tomatoes are available all year. I was excited to find some local greenhouse-grown grape tomatoes for this salad. Tender peas add sweetness and bright green color.
I love to serve this salad with creamy pesto salad dressing. Creamy pesto salad dressing has a bold, fresh pesto flavor that really wakes up your red and green salad. Homemade herb and garlic croutons are a beautiful final touch.
I’ve been eating this fresh, crisp red and green salad nonstop this winter! Give it a try, and leave a review to let me know what you think!
Red & Green Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing
For the Dressing
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons prepared pesto
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the Salad
- 1 head iceberg lettuce torn, washed and dried
- 1 head red leaf lettuce torn, washed and dried
- 1/2 large red bell pepper julienned
- 2 celery ribs washed, trimmed, and thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 1/2 English cucumber peeled in a stripe pattern and sliced, slices cut in half
- 3 large red radishes cut in half, and sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas thawed
- 15 grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
- Make the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients in a small mixing bowl until well blended.
- Prep the salad ingredients as directed.
- Layer the salad ingredients in a salad bowl, or arrange on salad plates.
- Serve salad with dressing and herb and garlic croutons on the side.