Lovely Little Gems

After a sweltering week downing cucumber water to stay alive, this breezy Saturday morning was just what we needed. Jon got me out of bed just giddy that we could actually bear sitting out in the garden without needing to spray each other down with the garden hose.

Earlier in the week, we made a vegetarian Thai coconut curry full of potatoes and farm carrots for a game night with Tommy and Emily. A couple of nights ago, we used up some more potatoes in a green bean tomato stew topped with yogurt. This morning, over a pot of coffee, we brainstormed some ideas for what was left in the fridge, thinking we might make a soup later with some beets, carrots, cabbage, green beans, and potatoes. Maybe a chilled summery borscht? Jon’s been wanting to pickle our green cabbage so he got a giant pickling jar boiling on the stove.

I had our little gems from Brooklyn Grange on the brain and couldn’t wait until lunchtime. I knew wanted to eat these little lettuce heads by hand coated with a thick punchy dressing. A lightbulb immediately went off in my head about a spiced green sauce I made in the wintertime from the cookbook Six Seasons. It’s a strong aromatic sauce that I liked in the winter for its warm spices and even more now using fresh garden herbs in season. I’m not going to provide actual amounts here because I eyeballed literally everything based on what I had around. Trust your own pinches and handfuls. You know what you like.

Handheld Little Gem Salad with Spiced Herb Dressing


  • Little gem head lettuce - We had two heads that I cut into quarters.
  • 1 lemon (for zest and juice)
  • 1 small hot pepper (the original recipe calls for a green chile but I just used a tiny dried orange ultra-hot pepper Jon grew in the window back in our apartment days)
  • Garlic (I used 2 big cloves.)
  • Olive oil
  • Spices: Cumin seeds, coriander seeds, seeds from a few cardamom pods, a pinch of ground cloves
  • Herbs: a handful each of parsley, cilantro, and whatever else is handy
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Toast the spices in a small skillet over medium heat for just a few minutes until fragrant. (In our house, that’s until Jon walks in the room and goes, “Oh yeah.”)
  2. Meanwhile, wash and cut the lettuce lengthwise into spears. You can do halves or quarters depending on how big they are. Lay them out on a serving dish.
  3. Grind the toasted spices. You can either use a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle like I did.
  4. Pulse the hot pepper and garlic in a small food processor.
  5. Add the fresh herbs, toasted spices, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and a few grinds of pepper, and pulse until smooth.
  6. Next, add in some olive oil to get your sauce saucier. If you can stream it in while blending that’s best, but my mini-processor doesn’t have an opening in the top so I just added in the olive oil after blending for a minute or two and then blended again.
  7. Spoon a teaspoon or so of sauce onto each lettuce spear, then spread it over until it gets into all the leaves and layers. I used a pastry brush to really coat mine.
  8. These are best eaten by hand out in the sun.

Speaking of little gems, after our messy delicious meal, Jon got his digging gloves on and set out to harvest the carrots we’ve been growing. While I sat down to hand write some promo cards for the blog to share with our farm friends, he pulled up 53 little purple-skinned orange-hearted gems from the ground. Time to come up with a way to honor these beauties.