I am not a fan of cold weather. By the time dinner time comes around I am dreaming of a hot dish: a hearty soup or a vegetable side or main dish that warms me and helps me let go of whatever tension the day may have caused. But before the warming course, I eat a salad — usually a big one.
- Photo by Simona Carini
- Elements of a bright spring salad.
If, when I was still living in Italy, someone had told me one day I'd be an enthusiastic salad eater, I would have laughed heartily. I grew up eating salad as a side dish almost every evening. My mother, an otherwise excellent cook, did not excel in creativity in the salad department. There are only so many years of mostly plain Romaine lettuce one can go through before turning into a salad skeptic.
Things have changed a lot since then and preparing my dinner salad has become an end-of-the-day ritual. Starting the meal with a salad is also a good way for me to focus on enjoying what I eat. I have about two servings of salad, followed by more vegetables (indeed, I am a vegetable-powered writer).
I like mixing flavors and using what is in season, what I find at the farmers market. Lettuce of all varieties, mixed salad greens, arugula (if not already in the mix) and microgreens provide the green part of the salad. I often add radicchio, which I purchase at the grocery store (I hope one day to find some locally grown).
Next, root vegetables. Radishes add a hint of spice, which I balance with the sweetness of carrots. I am also partial to salad turnips — their greens, like those of radishes, are tasty, too ("Eat Your (Radish) Greens," April 14, 2022). Then some fruit: in the fall Fuyu persimmon is my favorite in this role ("Winter Glow," Nov. 20, 2014). When their season is over, I turn to citrus fruit, such as orange or tangelo. Finally, I might sprinkle crumbled sweet blue cheese on top.
To dress the salad, a simple vinaigrette is always a good choice. I also use homemade mayonnaise, which I prepare with extra-virgin olive oil.
As I've written before, I invite you to take the recipe and amend it to make it yours. Try a different combination and, if an ingredient listed is new to you, taste it; you may find that you enjoy it.
Use a mixture for the salad greens, like lettuces, Asian greens, arugula, baby spinach, microgreens and radicchio. For the vinaigrette, shake 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and ½ tablespoon sherry vinegar well in a small glass jar with a secure lid. Alternatively, whisk a splash of sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise — even better if it's homemade. Serves 2.
4 ounces salad greens
2 ounces root vegetables (clean weight), such as radishes, carrots, salad turnips
2 ounces peeled orange or tangelo sections
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons vinaigrette, to taste
½ ounce sweet blue cheese, crumbled, optional
Chop the washed and spin-dried salad greens, and place them in a salad bowl.
Scrub the root vegetables. If using a carrot, scrape its surface to remove a thin layer of skin. Grate the root vegetables using the extra-coarse side of a hand grater. Add the grated vegetables to the bowl.
Cut into 2-3 pieces the citrus sections, then add them to the bowl.
Sprinkle the salt on the salad then distribute the vinaigrette (or mayonnaise and vinegar) on the surface. Toss gently and thoroughly.
Sprinkle the blue cheese, toss again, plate and serve.
Simona Carini (she/her) also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog pulcetta.com and shares photographs on Instagram @simonacarini. She particularly likes to create still lives with produce from the farmers market.