It’s officially salad season. That means it’s time to start using a bed of lettuce as the base for every meal. Whether you’re cooking burgers, making pasta, mixing up a smoked chicken salad, or whipping up a stir-fry, be sure to serve it on salad.
Some people say they have trouble getting through so much lettuce every week, but if there is one thing we should all be eating with abandon, it’s salad. I know, I know, sometimes just the thought of making a salad is too much work, but there are a number of things you can do to prepare in advance and make salads a simple joy rather than a thankless chore.
It’s all about the prep:
1. Wash all your salad greens and toss them altogether in a big container or ziplock. You can include your arugula, and some kale or other greens for texture, and if you want, keep them separated in the bin, in case you need that handful of arugula for a sandwich or garnish in another dish.
2. Slice up some cukes, radishes, carrots, kohlrabi and whatever other good salad additions are in season, and store in a container in the fridge so it’s all ready to sprinkle on your salad in whatever quantity you need.
3. Have your kitchen shears at hand so you can snip a few green onion, green garlic or garlic scape stalks into the salad, if desired.
4. Have a few fantastic salad dressings in your repertoire to whip up in an instant, and each time you make one, make up enough for several salads so you can have some on hand in the fridge for salad on the go (yes, you should bring salad to work for lunch). Browse the internet or your favorite cookbooks for a few recipes, make them often, and get comfortable enough to make them without needing to look them up or measure. Once you get the feel for the proper proportions, you will never need to purchase salad dressing again (in fact, you may start finding prepared salad dressings quite inadequate, unless we’re talking about the fabulous dressings from An Olive Ovation, which are essentially delicious homemade salad dressings made for you!).
5. Toss it up. Remember that variety is the spice of life, and if your salads are the same all the time, it’s no wonder you don’t get excited about them. Do you have the proper contrasts of textures, sweet versus tangy, a blast of lemon or herb to brighten it up? Have a few ingredients around that will make you excited about eating a salad. Maybe that’s avocado, which sadly is not something we’re able to find locally, but sometimes we need a little exotic flair. Try miso, a fermented soy product, mixed with yogurt, rice vinegar and sesame oil.
Think about the salads you’ve eaten that made you swoon, or at least made you say you’d like to have that again. Here are some ideas for deliciousness to top your basic green salad.
-Cook up some Bellews Creek black beans and add tortilla chips and salsa to make a taco salad.
-Add sweet pickled beets, steamed fresh beets, and grated raw beets, and whisk some of the pickled beet juice with a little olive oil, salt and pepper for the dressing. Serve with fresh chevre, chopped pecans and green onion/garlic/garlic scapes sprinkled over the top.
-Fruit! Fresh fruit in a salad is a delicious, sweet and refreshing addition which often calls for a slightly sweeter (but still tangy/tart) dressing. Fruit likes nuts and cheese, too. Consider adding a little dried fruit in as well for texture contrast.
-Hot on cold is a great combo. Serve your hot main dish on your cold salad. It gives you an added texture when the greens wilt, so consider what is in the salad going directly underneath the hot food–pea shoots are always a good choice!
The Salad Score
Although you don’t want flavor overload, and certainly not flavor discord, sometimes you find just the right combination with the variety of flavor, texture and temperature. When you do, it feels like you’ve hit the jackpot, or at least that sweet spot in the salad bowl. Enjoy!