I love salad and rarely go a day without a huge bowl of it. My mother was a salad lover, too. When I was 13, I dug a little garden bed in the backyard and planted by first lettuce seeds. Now I plant a wide variety of loose-leaf and soft-head lettuces at 2-3 week intervals in my upstate New York garden from early April until early September. This supplies me and a few friends with tender salad greens from mid-May until early November. The rest of the year I buy red leaf lettuce or baby salad greens and other ingredients. I buy organic when available. I also grow many other vegetables, but if I had only one vegetable to grow, it would be tender young lettuce.
I never tire of simple green salads to compliment most any main dish. For special occasions or for variety, I add some of the additional ingredients listed below. It’s worth the money to get the best vegetables available. If you’re pressed for time, make salad to last for two days or make enough for the evening meal and lunch the next day. It won’t be fresh if you hold it in the refrigerator much longer than that.
Basic Green Salad
- tender leaf lettuce or baby lettuce greens
- cucumber, seedless or English if available
- ripe peppers, red, orange, and/or yellow. Green peppers are unripe peppers, which are not sweet enough for my taste!
Wash the greens well and spin or drain them dry. A salad spinner lasts forever and pays for itself by giving you dry greens that hold on to salad dressing. Peel cucumber, unless home grown or organic, to remove wax and pesticides, and slice paper thin. Wash ripe red, yellow and/or orange peppers to remove waxes and pesticides, cut into quarters, line the quarters up together, and slice thinly. Dress this basic salad with just enough balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing to coat the leaves lightly, but not drown them.
- thinly sliced or grated raw carrots
- lightly steamed or micro-waved broccoli, cauliflower, beets, green beans, or carrots
- fresh or dried tomato, especially cherry tomatoes
- avocado (add just before serving because it oxidizes and darkens)
- thinly sliced apple or pear or pieces of fresh citrus fruit (orange and grapefruit are great with avocado)
- artichoke hearts
- dried fruit, such as raisins or cranberries
- sunflower or pumpkin seeds for some healthy oil and a little protein
- cheese from feta to blue to Romano
- ground flax meal (sprinkle on top after salad is dressed)