Here, four contrasting elements come together, and they result in a stunning salad that brims with fresh, exciting flavor.

At its base is Little Gem lettuce (or romaine, if Little Gem is unavailable), which is so crisp and cool, it practically quenches your thirst as you bite into it. The leaves are slathered in a gorgeous pale-green and luxuriously creamy (but healthful) dressing made by blending cilantro or basil with scallion, avocado, yogurt and a splash of vinegar.

Once plated, the dressed leaves are topped with juicy, tart-sweet red grapefruit segments (blood orange or Cara Cara segments would work here as well) and zingy quick-pickled red onions, which can be prepared in the time it takes to pull the salad together, or made ahead.

Crisp, juicy, creamy, tangy and tart with beautiful hues of pink and green, it’s a salad that brings a bright ray of light to any meal in need of a little sunshine. While it pairs well with just about any soup, stew or sheet-pan dinner, this salad is my absolute go-to with a hearty bowl of chili.

Gem Salad With Grapefruit, Pickled Onions and Avocado Dressing

Storage: The pickled onions can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


For the pickled onion

  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion (half-moons)

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or basil leaves
  • 1 scallion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (low-fat or full fat)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

For the salad

  • 2 red grapefruits
  • 8 cups (4 ounces) lightly packed torn gem or romaine lettuce leaves

Step 1

Make the pickled onions: In a small bowl, whisk together the hot water with the honey until fully combined; then whisk in the vinegar. Add the onions and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Step 2

Make the dressing: In a small bowl of a food processor, pulse the cilantro or basil with the scallion until finely chopped. Add the avocado, vinegar, yogurt, water, salt and pepper and process until smooth.

Step 3

Make the salad: Cut the top and bottom off each grapefruit, then, resting the fruit on one end, remove the peel and pith by cutting down from top to bottom, following the shape of the fruit with your knife. While holding the fruit over a wide bowl, use a paring knife to remove each section of grapefruit from its membranes (this is called supreming the fruit), collecting the sections in the bowl. Squeeze the juice from what’s left of the fruit into the same bowl.

Step 4

In a large bowl, gently toss the lettuce with the dressing until evenly coated. To serve, place about 1 1/2 cups of the dressed lettuce onto each serving plate. Pluck 3 to 4 segments of grapefruit and place them on top of each salad serving (reserve the juice for another use — or drink it) and several slices of the pickled onion. Serve, grinding more black pepper, to taste.

From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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Calories: 90; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 100 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 7 g; Protein: 2 g.