Paul and I have a disagreement about pepper. Paul thinks pepper should go on everything, like salt. I think salt should go on everything, but that pepper is optional. If you know the two of us at all, you will know that this disagreement can be virulent at times.
Salt, I say, goes on everything, heck, we even have a biological imperative to eat the stuff. Pepper goes on a lot of things, but similarly, I put cumin in a lot of things, and garlic, and ginger, but not in everything. For me, meat always gets salt and pepper. With fish, if it is more delicate, I may go for only salt and lemon. Vegetables will depend totally on how I'm cooking them.
Long ago my mother and I went to Rome, in the cold of January, and her biggest take away from the trip was, "I haven't been using enough pepper in my cooking!" It was true, my mother had basically stopped using pepper, but the more important take away for me was that Roman cuisine - the very stripped back, simple ingredient simple preparation kind of cooking, benefited greatly from that sprinkling of good salt and the fresh cracked pepper. I think of a shaved raw artichoke salad, anointed with percorino romano, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
This salad, for me, is the kind of thing where pepper really works. Butter lettuce with a simple creme fraiche dressing, the last of the winter's navel oranges, and some pistachios. The first time I made this, since we were only having salad for dinner, I dressed it up with some torn prosciutto, a perfect salty foil to the sweet oranges. The next time, for lunch, I tossed in some of the fava beans I was shelling. Both variations, with a crack of black pepper, are excellent.
Butter Lettuce, Orange, and Pistachio Salad
The recipe makes more dressing than you probably need, which will come in handy for when you make the salad again.
1 large head of butter lettuce, washed and dried and leaves roughly torn
2 navel oranges
1/4 cup pistachios (preferably blanched), toasted and chopped
1 cup fava beans OR 4 oz of prosciutto, torn
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1. Slice away the peel of the oranges, then, working over a bowl, supreme the oranges, setting aside the orange segments and catching the juice in a bowl.
2. Whisk the creme fraiche and a pinch of salt in with the orange juice to form a dressing.
3. Place lettuce leaves in a bowl and toss with a small amount of the dressing to coat. sprinkle salt over lettuce and toss again. Arrange the orange segments, pistachios, and prosciutto or favas over the lettuce. Drizzle a bit more of the dressing over top. Sprinkle salt and crack pepper over the salad. Serve.