may 30, 2014
We’ve come a long way from salad defined by iceberg lettuce, waxy rounds of cucumber, flabby wedges of pale unripe tomato and bottled thousand island dressing languishing in a faux-wood bowl. These days salad offerings are some of the most intriguing items on restaurant menus, chock full of seasonal vegetables and fruits, local greens and house made vinaigrettes crafted to enhance, not overpower.
What I love most about strolling through farmer’s markets : making the rounds and deciding on the spot what goes into my seasonal salad, then mentally composing the plate, deciding on dressings which marry well with colors/textures/flavors.
A recent trip to the Ashland Farmer’s Market, situated in a quaint town just north of Richmond, yielded dew-kissed vegetables from Deer Run Farm in King William, Virginia and salad greens (baby mesclun mix and sunflower sprouts) from The Carrot Top Farm in Ruther Glen, plus grass fed beef from Dragonfly Farms, settling the menu for the week ahead. The market, peppered with vendor tables laden with local produce, humanely produced meats and luscious baked goods, is small but dense with good things to buy and try.
Making your own salads (instead of buying bags of premixed salads at a grocery store) is a tactile thing, and a process that invites nibbles of the things you chop and fluff. I’m a big proponent of mixing a salad with clean hands (see fall harvest salad for technique of tossing, seasoning and plating salads), to avoid bruising delicate leaves, and also to properly gauge how much dressing to apply. Making your own salad dressing is super easy, too and no funny unpronounceable ingredients to put you off your feed ( salad dressings 101). Today’s recipe makes vinaigrette enough for several rounds of salads, and like most dressings it’s a good keeper in the fridge for when you need a quick boost for grilled foods, Greek yogurt or steamed vegetables.
Our salad today is a visual feast with colorful, crunchy and complementary elements : wispy baby mesclun mix and sunflower sprouts, purple kohlrabi, French radishes, spring onions and raw asparagus. For more great pairings of asparagus with citrus, see Lemon Garlic Shrimp with Asparagus and Baby Peas and Asparagus with Orange Mustard Vinaigrette. The dressing gets extra citrus zing from lemon zest, and honey for a nice contrast to the earthy vegetables, although you can lessen the amount of sweetness if you prefer. The dressing may be made ahead, but is best made at the last minute if you want the zested strands to taste fresh.
Lemon Dressed Spring Salad
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
serves 6, with extra vinaigrette for later
one large lemon, yielding about 4 tablespoons of juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 scant tablespoon honey, preferably local
7 tablespoons neutral oil : avocado, grape seed or canola
about 6 cups or one bag of baby mesclun salad mix
1 cup, or 1 small bag, of sunflower shoots
1 purple kohlrabi bulb, trimmed, unpeeled and cut in julienne slices
6 spears raw asparagus, cut in diagonal thin slices
6 French radishes, or 1 small bunch, trimmed and cut in thin diagonal slices
2-3 spring onions, trimmed and cut in thin diagonal slices
fine sea salt (I like La Baleine)
freshly ground black pepper
- Use zester (see above) to remove lemon zest and set aside; extract juice of lemon and strain.
- Place lemon juice, shallot and honey in clean glass jar, shake well, then add oil and shake well until combined; alternately, whisk lemon mixture in mixing bowl, then add oil gradually until well combined.
- Add all vegetables and greens to large mixing bowl, add just enough salad dressing to coat, with pinches of salt and grinds of pepper, mixing with hands gently and adding a few more drops of dressing if needed.
- Fluff salads onto chilled plates and sprinkle reserved zest atop each.
- Serve immediately.