The little baby lettuces in my garden enjoyed the rains of last week. Gorgeous curls of burgundy, bright green and speckles of dark red form a plush carpet. I've often seen mesclun at its peak and thought that Anne Geddes would do well to nestle a perfect peach of a baby in amongst the leaves, but luckily my own little ones weren't plopped down naked and photographed. For one thing, it's still frigid in June around here, and for another, we don't want to squish our salad.
Many gardeners go to their efforts for the sake of salad security, and that is my primary reason for spending more on the garden then I would at the farmer's market. I like arugula and chard, beet greens and mustards, lettuces and spinach, and all of them love being in the salad bowl together. If you find yourself with some fresh greens, either your own or obtained at the market, make it easy on yourself. Either have a great dressing ready to go in the fridge that makes tossing and serving a matter of seconds, or dump the greens in a bowl and dress them right then and there. Here's how you do it:
Fresh Greens with “Molly Dressing” (this was a lame attempt to make my daughter love salad)
A bowlful of prepared greens (washed, dried, torn or chopped if necessary)
Balsamic Vinegar (or the Apple Balsamic made by Boates)
Pure Maple Syrup
Place the garlic (about 1 small clove for a big bowl of salad) on a cutting board and smash it with the side of your knife. I do this by laying the side of the knife on the garlic and pressing down firmly until the garlic smushes. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and, again using the side of the knife, mash it into a paste. Throw this into the bowl with the greens. Drizzle in some olive oil (maybe a couple spoonfuls) and toss the greens with tongs or your hand until they are lightly and evenly coated with oil. Add a few splashes of balsamic (go easy) and a healthy dollop of maple syrup. Mix, mix, mix, until the garlic is distributed. Now taste, taste, taste, and add a little more maple syrup or vinegar if it needs it. Pile into individual serving bowls. Each serving is amazing just how it is, but you could also top them with bits of Bleu or Parmesan cheese, toasted pecans or almonds, sliced strawberries, sectioned oranges, garlic croutons or whatever you can imagine!
I've always loved Green Goddess dressing, and if you haven't had it, try this! It's best drizzled over your salad rather than mixed in. It's also a lowish fat topper for any fish (grilled salmon especially) and a wonderful pasta salad dressing (try it with cheese tortellini, cherry tomatoes, and diced orange peppers). If you're afraid of buying a big bunch of parsley, only to have it go bad, just brave with me and add it to everything. It keeps almost forever in a plastic bag in the fridge and makes a great vitamin rich and flavourful addition to any soup, pasta dish or salad that you're cooking up.
Tangy Green Goddess Dressing
Combine in a blender:
½ C. Mayonnaise
1 C. Plain Yogurt (low fat is fine and dandy) or Buttermilk
1 clove Garlic
1 large handful Parsley
3 T. Lemon juice
3 Green Onions
½ t. Freshly ground Black Pepper
Blend until smooth, adding salt to taste. Pour over any combination of greens and chopped raw vegetables. Any remaining can be refrigerated for up to two weeks for practically instant salads.
I just want to encourage you to add a salad to your meal at least once throughout the day (or to make it the main attraction!). A big bowl of fresh veggies with a dressing you love can really up your vegetable intake painlessly and deliciously. It can also help fill you up so you feel satisfied with smaller portions of more calorie dense foods, a good trick for lifelong healthy weight maintenance.