Abra Beren's Buttermilk and Butter Lettuce Salad

Abra Beren's Buttermilk and Butter Lettuce Salad
Watercolor by Lindsay Gardner

I’ve never been much of a butter lettuce person, always finding it pleasant enough but not especially exciting on the palate. That is, until I started eating the butter lettuce we grow at Granor Farm. 
Good butter lettuce has large, delicate leaves and a deep, grassy flavor that’s usually found in darker greens. This salad came from my desire to showcase those leaves by serving them whole and not drowning them in dressing. By fanning all the ingredients out horizontally and dressing them in layers, the flavor of the leaves shines through with support from the stronger flavors of buttermilk and tomatoes. Plus, any time I can dress a vegetable with something as often overlooked as straight buttermilk, it feels like a victory!


  • ÂĽ cup olive oil, plus more for pan-roasting tomatoes
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes‍
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ÂĽ cup sunflower seeds, toasted


  1. In a medium-size frying pan, warm a glug of olive oil and pan-roast the tomatoes over medium-high heat until they burst and their liquid reduces, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. When the tomatoes are roasted, allow them to cool.
  2. Combine ÂĽ cup olive oil with the garlic, lemon zest and juice, parsley, and salt in a small bowl to make a chunky relish.
  3. When ready to serve, lay out half the butter lettuce leaves on a large serving platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon half the tomatoes evenly over the lettuce, followed by half the garlic relish and half the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and top with the sunflower seeds before serving.
Watercolor of Abra Beren's farm by Lindsay Gardner

Abra Berens is like a kid in a candy store, except her candy store is Granor Farm in southwest Michigan, where, as the head chef, she is immersed in a bounty of freshly harvested vegetables. She firmly believes that “the meals we eat should change with the seasons, and their ingredients should come from nearby,” a philosophy she’s honed over a decade of experience as a farmer and chef. At Granor Farm, Berens channels her passion into creating unique dinners with the produce grown just steps from the farmhouse door. These communal meals (served in the farmhouse) reinforce the direct connection between the farm and diners’ plates, celebrating the diverse agriculture of the region and giving guests a behind-the-scenes look at organic farming.

Excerpted from Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity, and Connection by Lindsay Gardner. Copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Gardner. Art by Lindsay Gardner. Recipe © 2021 by Abra Berens. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

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