It is said by gourmets that Bibb lettuce is the finest in the world, with crisp, deep green leaves that cluster like rose petals. John B. Bibb, born in 1789 in Prince Edward County, Virginia, moved with this family to Russellville, Kentucky, as a young boy. Jack moved to Frankfort in 1845 and built Gray Gables at the corner of Wapping Street and Watson Court. He was not interest in the social life of the city or in a career in public life. Instead he embarked on adventures in his lovely garden that rolled down to the Kentucky River. There he evolved the salad head that bears his name. In his eighties he began giving lettuce plants and seed to friends and neighbors. Otherwise it might have been lost. Bibb lettuce is now available throughout the world.
This may not be an old traditional Kentucky Derby salad, but it sure has all the requirements. By the first Saturday in May Bibb lettuce is fresh and growing in every ones garden and therefore is normally found in your Derby salads. Of course we know what Benedictine Spread is, and the dressing for this salad is just a modern version of Benedictine Spread.
It is way to early for home grown tomatoes in May, in Kentucky, I suggest grape or cherry tomatoes for garnish.
Bibb Lettuce with Benedictine Dressing
1 small English cucumber
1/2 medium white or yellow onion
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup oil oil
1/2 cup cream cheese softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2-3 heads of Bibb lettuce
Tomato wedges, cherry or grape tomatoes and toasted pecans for garnish
Grate the cucumber (skin and all) and the onion by hand or with a food processor. Place the grated vegetable in the center of a clean dish towel, draw up ends and squeeze out all of the excess moisture. You should be able to extract at least a half cup of liquid, maybe not, and discard.
Make the dressing in a blender by first pureeing the parsley and olive oil until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, except the lettuce, and blend well.
Arrange cleaned dry lettuce leaves on a large platter and drizzle with the dressing. The salad may be garnished with tomato wedges and toasted pecans if desired. These may also be arranged on individual chilled salad plates.