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6 Ways To Love Spring’s Vibrant, Tender Greens

Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

The verdant piles of greens at the market herald the arrival of spring: Bunches of watercress, baskets of baby arugula, heaps of spinach and kale, newborn heads of butter lettuce and curly sprigs of pea shoots are just part of the riot of ingredients out there now that are perfect for your salad bowl.

Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta

 

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

6 packed cups of baby spinach leaves

2 1/2 cups stemmed, thinly sliced strawberries (about 1 1/2 pints)

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Put all the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. Make the dressing by mixing lemon juice and honey together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil, adding it in a very thin, slow stream and whisking rapidly until an emulsion forms. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Twisted Niçoise Salad

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

24 asparagus spears, woody ends broken off

4 medium beets

1/2 teaspoon of salt

16 to 20 butter lettuce leaves

4 eggs, boiled to hard or semi-hard, peeled and halved

1 medium cucumber, cut in 1/4-inch slices

2 tomatoes, cored and cut in wedges

20 Castelvetrano olives

2 (5-ounce) cans of Italian tuna in olive oil (such as Genova or Cento), drained

For the dressing:

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Lay the prepared asparagus in a 10-inch frying pan and add about 1 inch of water. Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and steam the spears until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. While the asparagus is cooking, make an ice bath in a large bowl using cold water and plenty of ice. Once cooked, plunge the spears into the ice bath to stop them cooking.

4. When cool, remove from bath and drain. Add more ice to the bath and set aside.

5. Put beets in a medium saucepan and add enough water to just cover them, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

6. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer; cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on size.

7. Remove from cooking water and submerge in ice bath until cool enough to handle. Slip off the skins and slice each beet thinly.

8. Make the dressing by placing the garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil in a thin stream until a cohesive dressing forms. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Assemble the salads by arranging lettuce leaves to cover four dinner plates. Make a pile of six asparagus spears on one side, a stack of beets on the other and fill in the rest of the plate perimeter with the egg halves, cucumber slices and tomato wedges. Scatter the olives over the top.

10. Put half a can of tuna in the middle of each plate and drizzle the salads with some of the dressing.

11. Finish the plates with a few grinds of fresh pepper and serve. You can pass more dressing at the table.

Spring Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

1 bunch of pea shoots, tough stems removed, washed and spun dry

1 bunch of watercress, tough stems and roots removed, washed and spun dry

4 big handfuls baby arugula leaves

1/4 cup hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

2 tablespoons of mild, creamy cheese, such as chèvre, farmer cheese or ricotta

3 thin slices of watermelon radish, stacked and cut into little triangles

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon best-quality sherry vinegar (I like O brand)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Tear pea shoots and watercress into bite-sized pieces and put in a large salad bowl.

2. Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl.

3. Make the dressing by whisking the vinegar with the oils until it comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Mexican Kale Salad

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

1/2 cup grapefruit sections, preferably from Oro Blanco or Melogold

2 packed cups of Tuscan kale leaves cut in thin (1/2-inch) ribbons, from about 5 or 6 large leaves with stems removed

1/4 cup radishes, cut in thin matchsticks

1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese

4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas), roasted and salted

For the dressing:

1 heaping teaspoon grapefruit zest

1/4 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Zest 1 heaping teaspoon of grapefruit skin for the dressing by cutting the stem and bottom skin and white pith off. Stand the fruit on the flat bottom (not stem side) so it is stable. Take a sharp knife and cut the skin off from top to bottom, cutting the white pith as you go.

2. Over a bowl, cut the sections from the membrane, catching any juice. Save 2 tablespoons of juice for the dressing and 1/2 cup sections for the salad, cutting any larger sections in half crosswise. Reserve the rest for another use — such as drinking it right down!

3. Put the grapefruit sections, kale ribbons, radishes, avocado and cheese in a large salad bowl.

4. Make the dressing by mixing the zest, jalapeño pepper and juice together, then whisk in the olive oil until combined. Taste and add salt and pepper.

5. Toss the salad with the dressing until well mixed. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on the top and toss again. Serve immediately.

Asian Chicken Salad With Peanut Sauce

Prep time: 35 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

4 packed cups romaine, cut crosswise from 1 large heart of romaine

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced into half moons

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

3 small sheets wasabi roasted seaweed, cut in strips

2 tablespoons roasted and salted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons unsweetened toasted coconut flakes

3 tablespoons sesame sticks

For the peanut sauce:

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons tamari

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 garlic cloves

6 fresh cilantro sprigs

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Make the peanut sauce by putting all the ingredients into a food processor or blender jar and combining until smooth. Reserve.

2. Toss the romaine with the cucumbers then mound in the middle of a large platter.

3. Make a crown of chicken around the top of the mound.

4. Place the seaweed, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and sesame sticks in each corner of the platter.

5. Put a large dollop of the peanut sauce on top of the romaine mountain.

6. Bring to the table so everyone can see your lovely creation, then toss all the ingredients together, adding more peanut sauce if necessary.

7. Divide among plates and enjoy.

Cherry Quinoa Salad in Lettuce Cups

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes

Total time: About an hour

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

For the salad:

2 cups water

1 cup red quinoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons dried cherries

1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely broken

1 small fennel bulb, finely diced

1/2 cup finely diced crisp apple

1 head butter lettuce, washed and spun dry

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Zest of 1 orange

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 tablespoon chives

1 tablespoons fennel leaves

1 tablespoon parsley

Directions

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa and salt. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa germ has expanded, about 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the orange and lemon juices with the vinegar and zest. Gradually drizzle in oils, whisking continuously, until dressing comes together. Mix in herbs.

3. When quinoa has cooked, scrape it into a mixing bowl and add the dressing, stirring to combine.

4. Add all the other salad ingredients except the lettuce. Cool to room temperature.

5. Set out lettuce leaves on a large platter and fill with quinoa salad. Serve.

Main photo: Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson



Zester Daily contributor Brooke Jackson is an independent food writer and recipe consultant based in Marin County, Calif. Her lifelong passion for cooking and food has carried her into kitchens, restaurants and gardens from coast to coast. As a recipe consultant, Jackson has worked with acclaimed chefs in editing and developing recipes for their cookbooks and magazines. Most recently she worked with Food Network chef Cat Cora on "Classics With a Twist" (published 2010) and was the staff recipe tester for Jewish Living magazine.

2 COMMENTS
  • Marie Simmons 4·8·15

    Love this collection of salads. First I’ll try the Mexican kale. Thanks Brooke!

  • Jennifer 4·12·15

    I really like the Twisted Nicoise Salad recipe!

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