Great Salads From Your Garden
Give them the TLC that plays up their delicate texture and doesn't hide their interesting flavors.
By Veronica Lorson Fowler
The Iowa Gardener
You've worked hard to grow them. Now give them special treatment. Lettuces from the garden shouldn't be drowned in heavy ranch or other dressings.
• Use a nice, light vinaigrette on garden greens. You can use supermarket vinaigrettes, but they tend to be too heavily flavored, in my mind. I like an easy homemade vinaigrette made with top quality extra-virgin olive oil and good-quality vinegar. (See Master Recipe, with fun variations, below.)
• Add something onion-y. If there's not already garlic in the dressing, add some freshly snipped chives from the garden, or chopped up green onion and tops, or slivers of red onion.
• Add a complementary veggie or two. Keep it simple, though. The star should be the lettuces! I love radishes, green peppers, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes.
• Add something crunchy. I'm a snob and don't care for those big, bland store croutons. Your own homemade small croutons are incredible, but time-consuming to make. I tend toward salted sunflower seeds, instead, or toasted pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, or almonds. (Healthier, too.)
• Add a fresh herb. If you have some, add a handful of chopped parsley, tarragon, or cilantro (if you're doing a lime-based vinaigrette).
• Helpful hint: Start serving other types of salads on top of a bed of garden lettuce. Spread several big handfuls of lettuce on a platter and top with a mound of three-bean salad, potato salad, or cucumber salads. Fancy, pretty, healthy, and yummy!
Go easy on the dressing and toss really well—and serve!
Master Vinaigrette Recipe:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup vinegar
Generous pinch kosher salt, or to taste
Several grinds black pepper
Put in a jar and shake vigorously until blended.
Adds and Substitutes:
• I like white balsamic vinegar a lot. Mild flavor and doesn't discolor the leaves like regular balsamic vinegar. But experiment with vinegars. Rice vinegar is also great!
• Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic for more flavor.
• Add a dash tabasco for a little kick.
• Add a pinch of sugar, one teaspoon or so of orange marmalade, or a little raspberry jam for some sweet—great with more bitter greens.
• Add a teaspoon of mustard. This adds flavor and acts as an emulsifier, which gives the dressing more body and blends it better.
• I love adding lemon juice for a truly fresh-tasting spring salad.
• Try lime juice for a salad that's great with Mexican and Asian foods.