Spring is a season of salads! Actually, I think there are great salad for all seasons, but spring is one of my favorite times to celebrate bitter greens and fresh garden toppings. There are endless delicious combinations and lots of room for creativity. I’ve been making salads often during our travels. It’s usually easy to find fresh greens and other treats at the markets and making big salads keeps the rich European food in balance.
I think there are few key things that transform a blah salad into something special. The first is fresh herbs! Chop up a few sprigs of parsley, cilantro, basil, chives, mint, coriander, or anything you can get your hands on and add it to the salad. Herbs add such a nice complexity of flavor to a simple salad, as well as many health benefits.
The second is good salad dressing. I strongly recommend getting into the habit of making your own dressing. It is easy, delicious, and much healthier than store-bought options. My standard dressing recipe is below, but feel free to improvise.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (or half and half balsamic and red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (I recommend using a low sodium variety)
4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 tablespoon mustard
I often substitute 2 tablespoons of basil pesto in place of the mustard and/or add the juice from half a lemon.
Mix all the ingredients together in a jar and let sit for 15 minutes (if possible) before using so the garlic infuses the oil. Once you’ve made a batch of dressing you can store it in the fridge for future salads. I like to dress and toss my salads before serving (rather than on the plate) to ensure proper dressing distribution.
Finally, add whatever seasonal treats you have on hand. Great classics include tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, avocado, and carrots. I also like shaved celeriac (the pale slaw in the photo below), roasted root vegetables, grilled stone fruits (likes peaches or plums), chopped kohlrabi, diced apples, sauteed onions, eggs (like the Bistro Salad), sliced cabbage, pomegranate seeds, olives, cooked beans or grains, and any leftovers in the fridge.
This salad didn’t include cheese, but I often add a sprinkle of feta or parmesan to top everything off.
We regularly have big salads filled with goodies as a meal on their own, or pair them with whatever else we’re eating. We enjoyed this salad with heaping bowls mussels steamed in white wine, shallots, garlic, and herbs. It was superb!