Monday, June 20, 2011
A Ballad of Salad
First, a moment to brag. See that lettuce right there? That delicious, organic, heirloom lettuce? That is the direct result of my sweat, dirty fingernails, and sunburns. Yes, I grew that... from seed! And that's just a small first picking. As my high horse is getting tired, I'll move on...
Warm weather is here and with it comes a cascade of salads. I love salad and this time of year it becomes my go-to for lunch or dinner... and sometimes both. Salads are fun and easy meals: you can quickly throw together all kinds of creative combinations. Pretty much anything that sounds good together will be good. I often top my salads with some cheese to give them a bit more heft, but this could be left off for vegans, (perhaps substituted with some legumes?), or meat-lovers could top them with some pieces of grilled meat or a fuller meal. Chicken or scallops work with just about anything and flank steak, salmon, or shrimp can be great with many flavors, too.
A few salad tips:
- After washing your lettuce, ideally spread it out to air dry. Even a salad spinner doesn't quite achieve the same result. Truly dry leaves allow the dressing to cling better and let the taste and texture of the lettuce shine through. If you're pressed for time towel off as much moisture as you can instead.
- Season your lettuce. Sprinkling the naked lettuce with a bit of salt and pepper before adding other toppings goes a long way for flavor. It also helps you use less dressing.
- An oldie but a goodie: tear your lettuce, don't chop it!
- Make sure to top lettuce with contrasting but complimentary flavors: sweet and tangy, spicy and creamy, fresh and earthy, etc.
Don't toss those radish greens! Eat them in a salad instead. Since they can be a little on the tough side, (similar in texture to mint leaves), toss them with some tender butterhead. Top with sliced radishes, aged goat cheese, and a spicy mint vinaigrette, (olive oil, lemon juice, minced mint, chopped capers, red pepper flakes, cayenne, thyme, salt).
Tomatoes aren't the only salad-friendly fruit. Here mixed greens are topped with blackberries, pickled radishes, and sheep's milk feta with a balsamic vinaigrette.
A true classic: apples and goat cheese atop butterhead lettuce with a fresh dill vinaigrette.
Almost too pretty to eat: arugula and mixed lettuces topped with thinly slice chioggia beets, minced shallots, and feta cheese with a blackberry balsamic vinaigrette.
And, of course, there will be many more to come.