I was never a big salad person until I started growing my own lettuce. And since I usually grow a whole bed of it, I usually Â have a lot of salads to eat this time of year. My colleagues could probably tell it was spring time just by watching my lunches transition from soups to big Tupperware containers of salad.
I use the “cut and come again” method with the lettuce I grow, harvesting the outer leaves of all my lettuce plants when I want to make a mixed green salad. I’ve also started succession planting…finally! I’ve always loved the idea of this, but just never had the time or the patience to do it. Well, as it turns out, it’s really not that hard. I just sowed a few more squares of lettuce each week, so that when my first crop of lettuce is spent, I have a fresh crop that’s ready to harvest. Genius!
1. Use kitchen shears to prepare. Just stack clean lettuce leaves, hold them over the bowl, and cut for bite size pieces.
2. Add fresh fruit – especially thinly sliced apples and pears.
3. When fresh fruit is not available, use dried fruit. Dried cherries are my favorite right now.
4. Add a half cup (or more) of cooked (and chilled) wild rice to make your salad more substantial. Rice doesn’t just have to be a side dish.
5. Add a half cup (or more) of cooked (and chilled) quinoa for added texture and protein.
6. Sprinkle your salad with sunflower seeds for added crunch and protein.
7. Make simple candied walnuts to sprinkle on your greens. Simply put a cup of shelled walnut pieces in a small saute pan, drizzle with maple syrup, and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently so the nuts and syrup don’t burn. Cook until the walnuts are well coated and the syrup starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Cool before tossing over your greens.
8. Dry roast raw pumpkin seeds in a bare cast iron skillet, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When they start to brown and pop out of the pan, they’re ready. These are great on soups too!
9. Grow mixed greens – seeing speckled red and green lettuce in my bowl makes me so happy!
10. Think beyond lettuce – tender kale, chard, and rapini greens are delicious in salads.
11. Toast big flake, unsweetened coconut and sprinkle onto salads for crunch and unexpected flavor.
12. Add shaved parmesan or pecorino. To get thin shavings, use a vegetable peeler with a block of hard cheese.
13. Or skip the hard cheeses and add crumbles of chevre or some other delicious goat cheese.
14. One word: arugula!
15. Make a super simple dressing, by combining equal parts olive oil and lemon juice (or more lemon juice). According to Radhi, this is especially lovely in an arugula salad with parmesan and pine nuts.
16. Use Michael Ruhlman’s ratio for the perfect vingairette = 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. The options are endless.
17. Add ribbons of french sorrel for a lemony kick.
18. Don with edible flowers like nasturtium, pansies, and chive blossoms.
19. Make super simple spiced croutons. In a small saute pan over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter to generously coat the pan. Add a cup of bread cubes and toss to coat. Generously sprinkle with cayenne pepper or other spice of your choice. Smoky paprika is nice too. Let them sit in the pan for a few minutes on each side to get brown and toasty.
20. Toss crunchy greens with sesame seeds and the following dressing a la Heidi Swanson: 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce.
What else should I do with all this lettuce? What do you put in your favorite salads?