I get to the point where I just can't bear to look at another box of mixed baby greens, baby arugula, hearts of romaine or a wilted head of green leaf lettuce - even if they are all organic. They all taste the same. As I anxiously await the first heads of local lettuce - I'd trade, hmmm, what would I trade for a head of slightly bitter oak leaf lettuce, a bunch of just-picked (dandelions mixed in) peppery rucola, and a head of buttery Boston lettuce - well, I'll trade anyone of the below salads that I've been making to take their place. These salads may require a bit more effort than simply rinsing and drying leaves and dressing them with fruity olive oil and fragrant vinegar - but they'll satisfy. For sure. As a matter fact, bring some of the "in-between" salad ingredients forward with you to mix with fresh lettuce leaves. Especially, nuts, seeds, and fresh herbs - they add color and texture - and nutrients.
PINK GRAPEFRUIT AND AVOCADO SALAD
I made this one for Easter Sunday luncheon. It was a beautiful day and my Easter bunny guests - and their adorable French bull dog, came to me after parading their splendorous finery on 5th Avenue. Bill Cunningham caught them all in On the Street - Easter Parade 2011, his New York Times column that appeared in the paper, Sunday, May 1st. We started our casual, by now traditional, lunch with this very pretty salad. I choose it for color, pink and green, and for the way creamy, nutty avocados mix with sweetly tart, explode-in-your-mouth grapefruit. I added toasted hazelnuts for crunch, and chives for their defining flavor and because I have many pots of them in my garden. My first springtime crop!
2 pink or red grapefruits
2 avocados, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 tablespoon chopped chives, plus a few whole blades for garnish
2 teaspoons vincotto or aged balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fruity extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
romaine lettuce leaves for serving
1. Remove the sections from the grapefruit: use a very sharp paring knife to peel away the skin, then the white pith from the fruit. Using the same sharp knife, carefully remove the segments one at a time by cutting between the fruit and membrane. Remove the seeds from the segments. Add to a mixing bowl.
Add the avocado pieces, chives and hazelnuts.
2. In small bowl whisk together the vincotto, olive oil and salt. Add to the larger bowl and carefully toss ingredients together.
3. Serve, immediately (or the ingredients will discolor) on a bed of torn romaine lettuce leaves.
PINEAPPLE AND CARROT SALAD
I love pineapple - you may know this from other blog entries. There must be a huge harvest going on right now in Costa Rica as I keep buying them by the twos - two for 5 bucks. Irresistible! Instead of making dessert with them I'm now using pineapple for a savory salad - sort of. I enjoy eating my version, basically a combination of two retro salads; pineapple, and carrot, with marinated tofu, with a frittata, or with roast chicken.
Serves 6 - 8
1 golden pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and grated (I used a box grater - not worth getting a food processor dirty for 4 carrots)
1/3 cup Thompson raisins
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 heaping tablespoon good quality mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar - or another fruity vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Add the pineapple, carrots, raisins, and sesame seeds to a bowl. Toss together to evenly distribute the ingredients.
2. In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar and oil. Add to the large bowl and combine with the other ingredients. Serve immediately. Salad can be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for up to a week.
RED CABBAGE AND APPLE SALAD
This salad is kind of a relative to the pickled red cabbage - another blog. I toast the walnuts for this salad, just as I did the hazelnuts for the previous salad, because it brings out - emphasizes their flavor, and gives them extra crunch. Once made it lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator, and retains its crispiness.
Serves 6 - 8
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 apples such as fuji or gala, cored and thinly sliced on a mandolin
1/2 red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced on a mandolin
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 heaping tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl in the above order - lime first and the olive oil last. Thoroughly mix together. I used my hands in order to evenly distribute all the components. Let sit for at least an hour before serving.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: I went out to the borough of Queens again a few days ago. This time it was to visit the wonderful Greek supermarket, Titan. If you go - you must carefully peruse every aisle and pay special attention to the enormous selection of a Greek favorite, spoon fruits. Jars of all sizes and shapes are filled with figs, cherries, sliced oranges and so on preserved in syrup. Don't miss the handmade orzo; jars of taramasalata; bags of rusks; cans and bottles of olive oil; dried herbs; honey; preserved-in-brine grapes leaves - just for starters. In the back of the market find a case of what seems to be the Himalayan mountain range, but it's really a selection of various kinds of feta cheese. Near the cheese cases find barrels filled with kind of olive imaginable. In the front of the market there's a bakery. I can't resist baklava - and I didn't. However, I discovered a new Greek sweet whose name eludes me. It's a soft, soaked-in-syrup pastry filled with sesame paste - a kind of halvah. The impression that I got with my first bite was "this is the best peanut butter cookie I've ever eaten". It's beyond peanut butter cookie - soft and sweet, smooth with a slight sesame seed crunch. Heaven.