Updated: May 20
As spring approaches I long for the tastes that remind me that the bounty of summer is on its way. Even though I eat it all year long, green salad is the perfect place to start adding what spring has to offer. It’s also the one thing I always have ready in my kitchen.
A good salad and salad dressing are the perfect end to a meal; at least in France that’s how it’s served. The slight acidity of the dressing cuts the heaviness of the meal and is a good way to cleanse your taste buds for the last part of your meal, be that dessert, coffee or both.
To the assortment of greens that I buy, I add a fresh herb that is in season (try parsley, dill, mint, and cilantro to name just a few). This week basil is back. To make certain that the herb I’ve selected is distinct I add only one herb to the greens and keep my selection of greens limited to just a few. The taste is wonderful and allows the full flavor of what you add to shine.
Since I eat a green salad every night I’ve found a simple way to prepare the greens and the dressing so it is ready with little effort when I want it.
I buy lettuce that has not been bagged for three reasons. One is that I want to try to avoid all the extra packaging, the second is the extra cost and the third is health.
Why should I pay for something that is that easy to do? I know that pre-washed salad is the answer to saving time, but at what expense, added pollution and extra cost? I did a time/cost benefit analysis and concluded it was not necessary. I also discovered that the extra washing is an added protection against e-coli. The benefit of protecting my family and helping the earth makes it an easy decision.
I buy an assortment of greens; the combination varies with my mood and what looks good and fresh in the store. I love Boston lettuce (also known as Bibb or Butterhead lettuce), red leaf, spinach, romaine, and frisé. Occasionally I add radicchio, endives and even watercress. What ever you choose the preparation is the same. When you need lettuce during the week it’s ready to use. Make certain to seal the bag after every use to keep the greens fresh.
If I add herbs to the salad I try to buy them with the roots still on and place them in a vase with water covering the roots and use them as I need them. If they are cut, I wash them and after drying I roll them in a towel and keep them refrigerated in a separate bag. This gives me the option to use them in different ways during the week.
There are many different ways to clean and store your greens; this is the one that works best for me.
For the salad greens:
• Pull apart the heads of lettuce and discard the outer leaves that are tough as well as anything that looks bruised or wilted.
• Break the leaves into pieces and wash in cold water baths in the salad spinner. Fill the container about half full so any grit is easily removed. Drain
• Spin, discarding the extra water that collects at the bottom.
• Put the dry leaves into a plastic bag in which you have placed a dry towel. (This is one of the places I use a paper towel.) Close tightly.
There are two ways to make vinaigrette. One is to combine vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and mix well. The other includes the addition of mustard. They can be easily made in the bottom of your salad bowl before you add the salad greens, but I find that if I make a batch and keep it in a sealed container (do not refrigerate or the oil will congeal) I have it ready when I need it and is one less step when I’m busy.
One of biggest mistakes people make is to add too much salad dressing to the greens. It will cause the salad to get soggy and start to wilt. Start by putting a small amount of dressing on the salad and tossing. Taste a leaf if you need to add more, repeat the process.
Vinaigrette can be left un-refrigerated a couple of weeks without concern. If you do refrigerate it the olive oil will congeal and will need to be brought to room temperature before use.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (The proportion is one to three) 3/4 cup Good extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. Quality matters Salt and pepper
Make it in a sealed container that you can shake well before using. Make certain that the oil and vinegar emulsify before pouring on the salad.
Mustard Vinaigrette 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup good olive oil (extra virgin cold-pressed)
Salt and pepper
Place the vinegar, mustard salt, and pepper in a sealable container and shake until they have combined.
Add the olive oil and shake until the vinaigrette has come together in an emulsion. Dress and toss the salad.