There may be sprinkles here in the Northwest in July, and it almost always rains on the Fourth, but, all in all, it is shirtsleeve weather. And roadside stands and farmer’s markets are full of fresh garden greens. Once the poor relatives of the vegetable family, greens have become trendsetters. Cold, crisp and fresh greens are the basis for most salads.
Bibb or butterhead is usually chosen for smooth texture and delicate flavor, and the frilled loose-leaf lettuces to tickle our tongues. Scatter the pungent radicchio for an eye-opener, and seek the unexpected for your salads—watermelon with red onions, spinach with strawberries, asparagus with citrus, and asparagus with grapes.
GREEN SALAD WITH APPLES, PECANS AND BLUE CHEESE
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of pecans
2 tablespoons of sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 scallions, minced
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
4 cups of torn escarole
1 small head of radicchio, torn into bite-size pieces (2 cups)
2 cups of torn frisee
2 red apples, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges
6-oz. of blue cheese, crumbled
In small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of oil over low heat; add pecans and sugar, and cook, stirring, until sugar melts and turns amber, and pecans are crisp and coated, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with dash salt.
In large bowl, whisk together vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup of oil, scallions, salt and pepper to taste.
Add escarole, radicchio, frisee and apples; toss well. Top with cheese and pecans. Serves six.
GREEN SALAD WITH ASPARAGUS AND GRAPES
1 pound of asparagus
8 cups of baby salad greens
2 cups of seedless red grapes
8 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
4-oz. of goat cheese, crumbled
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup of pine nuts
Balsamic vinaigrette is made by mixing 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1 clove of garlic, minced, 7 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Snap off tough ends of asparagus; arrange in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam 2-4 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and cut into 1-inch pieces.”
Arrange salad greens on a serving platter; top evenly with asparagus, grapes, and the other ingredients. Serve with vinaigrette. Serves four.
GREENS WITH BEETS AND GOAT CHEESE
2/3 cup of pecan halves
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of whole grain mustard
Dash of salt
1 pkg. of mixed baby salad greens
1 can of sliced beets, drained
1 cup of crumbled goat cheese
In large skillet, cook pecans, 1 tablespoon of vinegar and water over medium heat until nuts are toasted, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar. Cook and stir for 2-4 minutes or until sugar is melted. Spread on foil to cool.
In small bowl, combine the oil, syrup, mustard, salt and remaining vinegar. Refrigerate until serving.
In a large bowl, combine salad greens and dressing; toss to coat. Divide among eight salad plates. Top with beets, goat cheese and glazed pecans.
The first salads were simple, edible plants and herbs seasoned only with salt; the word salad comes from the Latin “sal” for salt.
Today a good salad is made tasty and appetizing when the dressing is extra special. The dressing should enhance the salad by summoning forth a special flavor and adding a delicate piquancy. The classic salad dressing is simplicity itself: three parts oil, one part vinegar or lemon juice, and seasonings to taste. Make the dressing early as aging improves it, and the longer the ingredients are together, the better the flavor.
We should always keep in mind an old Spanish saying: “To make a perfect salad there should be a spendthrift for oil, a miser for vinegar, a wise man for salt, and a madcap to stir the ingredients up and mix them well together.”
HINT OF THE MONTH: Toss at the table so the dressing is in contact with the greens only a little time—once contact is made, the greens begin to wilt.
Marian Platt is a food writer who lives in Sequim, Washington.