Spring Salads

After a long winter, a fresh garden salad is going to taste great. If you plant lettuce, radishes, onion sets, peas, carrots and spinach – you will have great salad ingredients in about 2 months. All that freshness topped with a homemade dressing and you have the perfect lunch – so tasty and healthy too! Pouring vinaigrette on saladIf the only lettuce you've used for salads is iceberg, you don't know what you're missing. Doing true justice to a salad involves more than tossing a few handfuls of chopped veggies on iceberg lettuce - too bland. With so many varieties of lettuce available at the green grocers and farmers markets, there's really no reason not to try something new.

For a truly sensational salad  it's important to select varieties of lettuces and greens for color and for sharp and sweet tastes. Consider smooth-textured Bibb, light-green Boston lettuce, crunchy romaine, and red and green loose-leaf lettuce.

Large-leaf spinach has a very robust flavor. When paired with fresh basil, the outcome is a very sweet taste.
Romaine lettuce is normally used in Greek salads, but there are different types that give different flavors. The red and green varieties are very crisp and crunchy, and the red contains lots of vitamin C. Romaine hearts are like a small version of romaine and are usually more tender. Boston lettuce is very tender and sweet. It nearly melts in the mouth. These types mix nicely with specialty greens, such as tangy arugula, bitter red radicchio, peppery watercress and crispy endive. Kale is also very good in salads. It needs to be julienned, because it is very tough.

Rinse off those fresh radishes, green onions and baby carrots and chop into pieces with a vegetable chopper or slice evenly with a mandoline vegetable slicer. Pick that fresh Bibb and leaf lettuce and rinse and spin in your salad spinner. Pick up some specialty greens at the market. Now you are ready to combine everything for a great tasting salad. To keep extra lettuce fresh, use a produce keeper or salad bag. It keeps the water away from the lettuce but keeps the humidity so that the lettuce does not spoil as quickly.

Cool your salad bowl in the refrigerator as you chopping your vegetables. Then when everything is ready to toss put it in the bowl. And here's a good idea for making sure your salad stays cool on the salad plate. Icy-cool plates bring the crisp chill of the refrigerator to the table. Just place stacked salad plates in the refrigerator for at least an hour. When you're ready to serve the salad, remove the icy-cool plates from the refrigerator and place the salad on the plates.

If you want to keep the salad bowl on the table for seconds, use our Cool Serve Convert-a-Bowl. This bowl comes with a freezable cool pack that you insert in the bottom right before serving. Great way to maintain an ideal temperature for salads.

Here is a great Spring Salad to start your tastebuds churning.

Spinach-Strawberry Toss

  • 1 bag fresh spinach leaves, torn or 1 bunch romaine lettuce
  • 1 half head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 bunches green onions, sliced or 1 small red onion sliced and separated into rings
  • 1 small pkg. slivered almonds or pecans - caramelized

To caramelize the nuts, take 2 Tbsp. sugar in a heavy pan and heat until it melts. Watch closely and add nuts when melted, stir until well coated, then spread on parchment or wax paper. When cool, separate. Be careful not to burn. Assemble spinach, lettuce, onions, and strawberries in a large bowl. Add poppy seed dressing and sprinkle with the nuts.

 

Poppy Seed Dressing

Mix together in a salad mixer or shake ingredients in a jar with screw top.

  • 2 Tbsp. salad oil

  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice

  • 1 Tbsp. honey

  • 1/4 tsp. poppy seed

  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Some specialty salad greens:

From regional favorites to unheard-of innovations, try these extra touches to your salad.

Mesclun: Mix of different lettuces that grow together in one geographic location. Traditionally, the character of the mesclun depended on what lettuces (and sometimes herbs) were indigenous to a particular region.

Frisee: A lacy and pleasantly bitter lettuce that is part of the chicory family. As the lettuce grows, each head is tied up so that the sun does not penetrate the center of the lettuce as it finishes growing. The delicate white leaves are considered a delicacy and are the least bitter.

Radicchio: The most common type is a round head that looks somewhat like a small red cabbage. It has a fairly assertive bitterness.

Arugala: Considered by some an herb since its flavor is assertive, not unlike horseradish. Tastes best when consumed during the cool weather growing season and is milder. When the weather warms up, the arugala becomes increasingly hot and peppery, and has more insect problems. Add small amounts for added zing!

Dandelion: A pesky weed that is also a great salad green. It is commonly used throughout all of the Mediterranean. Tiny leaves are perfect for salad, they are refreshingly bitter and go well with tart vinaigrette. Stay aware from large leaves or lawn dandelions that could be treated with chemicals.

Mache: Also called "lamb's lettuce" or "corn salad" because it grows well in the shade between rows of corn. It is a delicate and sophisticated lettuce with small, tender, green round leaves.

Watercress: These dark green leaves have a peppery bite that is great for salads, soups and sauces. Traditionally, it is found in the wild along the banks of brooks or streams-- thus the name. Watercress grown in hothouses is more tender and delicately flavored.

Salads are more than just appetizers; they provide alternative solutions for lunch or dinner on the go. Pick from your own garden, the local farmers' market or the produce aisle at the supermarket and enjoy a great tasty, nutritious, healthy lunch!

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