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Each April 22 since 1970 in the United States, and since 1990 around the world, people have observed the holiday known as Earth Day. Originally conceived as a "teach-in" about environmental issues, held on college campuses, the early-springtime event has evolved into a broader celebration of the many ways in which we all can be more aware of, and take better care of, our planet.
Of course, food will be the focus of my own Earth Day celebration with my family. And what more perfect way could there be to enjoy the earth's bounty than to make a fresh, delicious salad featuring seasonal greens?
I love to eat salads at any time of year, but especially in springtime. There's no healthier, more delicious way I know to start a meal than with a chilled plate or bowl piled high with fresh, colorful, crisp, and tender leaves and other vegetables, complemented by a vinaigrette or other quickly prepared, brightly seasoned dressing. Salads excite the appetite without overwhelming it, leaving you ready to enjoy the rest of the meal that follows. Yet, they also help fill you up while providing important nutrients, playing a role in successful weight maintenance and vibrant health.
One of my favorite things to do on a weekend morning, especially at this time of year, is to take my sons shopping at the farmers' market for fresh greens and other springtime vegetables to include in our salads. With good health in mind, for both my family and the planet, I always try to buy organic salad ingredients grown without use of chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers. It always delights me to see how many different choices we have: crispy lettuces like iceberg and Romaine; tender ones like butter or limestone lettuce; peppery watercress; pleasantly bitter arugula, curly or Belgian endive, and radicchio; and so much more. Of course, I like to include fresh herbs for even more flavor. And usually there's a stall that offers organic, pesticide-free edible flowers to add bright bursts of color and their own particular fragrances.
With such a range of options, there's no end to the number of simple salads you can compose. And that variety grows even broader when you consider how many basic dressings you can make simply by combining various oils, flavorful vinegars, and other seasonings ranging from herbs and spices to minced garlic or shallots, sweet and mellow honey to pungent mustard. (Take care to dress the salad just before serving, tossing it well with only enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly.)
By way of example, I'm including two of my favorite recipes here to get your started. Have fun composing your own fresh salads throughout the spring and summer.
Simple Spring Salad With Mustard Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon Dion mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or good red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 cup almond oil or safflower oil
6 heads Boston or butter lettuce
6 bunches arugula or watercress
1 head curly endive
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound firm white mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs (tarragon, chives, and parsley)
First, prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the mustard, tarragon, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until well blended. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the oil to form a thick emulsion. Set aside.
Separate and trim the lettuce, arugula or watercress, and endive leaves. Wash and dry them thoroughly and tear any oversized or long leaves into bite-sized pieces.
Place all the salad greens in a large serving bowl and add the avocado and mushrooms. Just before serving, toss with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat them lightly but thoroughly. Mound on chilled salad plates and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
Field Green Salad with Wildflower Honey-Blackberry Vinaigrette
Wildflower Honey-Blackberry Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup blackberry vinegar
1 tablespoon wildflower honey or other honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
1 teaspoon minced shallots
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup hazelnut oil
1/2 cup almond oil
1 pound mixed baby greens
1 cup assorted edible flowers
First, prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, honey, parsley, chervil, shallots, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together until well blended. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the almond and hazelnut oils to form a thick emulsion. Set aside.
In a serving bowl, toss together the field greens and edible flowers, lightly seasoning the mixture with salt and pepper. Toss with enough of the dressing to coat the leaves and flowers lightly. Mound the mixture on chilled salad plates and serve immediately.
Spring / Summer Salad Recipes, Wolfgang Puck, American
Salads for Earth Day and Every Day
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