April 25th 2010
There is nothing more refreshing than the first salads of the season. After being pent up inside the house with warm stews and possibly more Swiss chard than one can or should consume, new veggies are definitely a requirement.
Salad becomes my default meal in the summer once it’s too hot to bear turning on the stove. In spring it seems more like a privilege to have a salad for my main course. Especially when I’m harvesting the lettuce from my own home garden. I have several varieties such as iceburg, Romain, deer tongue, red oak leaf, red romaine, mesclun mix, and spicy baby Asian green mix. If you don’t have any space to grow your own, a quick trip to your local farmers market will give you even more choices. Try as many heirloom varieties as you can. You won’t find them in your supermarket because they don’t ship well and some are only available for a short time in the spring and fall.
One way to dress up your salad is to serve it on Noritake colorwave plates. My favorites are the accent plates. Make sure to garnish the salad with a few surprises such as fresh strawberries and goat cheese, or toasted nuts and dried berries.
My favorite way to elevate a salad is by adding edible flowers. Make sure you are buying culinary grade or eating ones you grow yourself. If they were not grown as food, they may be sprayed with chemicals that you do not want to ingest. I grow nasturtiums which is a beautiful vining plant with edible leaves and flowers. The leaves add a peppery taste to the salad and the petals add so much color that you can even make a side salad out of just lettuce and nasturtiums.
Don’t underestimate what you can add to a salad. Use leftover steak, chicken, even steamed asparagus to make it a heartier meal. A salad doesn’t have to always be dainty. You can serve black beans, pulled chicken, avocado and salsa on top of a crunchy lettuce and even the biggest working man can fill up on it!
One thing I love to do is serve a salad that I toss in a dressing, rather than serve the dressing on the side. I find you can use so much less dressing that way and it allows the flavors to meld in a magical way when each lettuce leaf is perfectly coated. It’s great for dieters too, since you can easily triple the amount of calories with extra dressing.