- a dish, usually cold, of raw or sometimes cooked vegetables or fruits in various combinations, served with a dressing, or molded in gelatin, and sometimes with seafood, poultry, eggs, etc. added
- any green plant or herb used for such a dish or eaten raw
- a finely chopped or ground food mixed with mayonnaise, seasonings, etc. and served as on lettuce or in a sandwich: tuna salad, egg salad sandwich
When I was growing up salad was a pretty straightforward thing. A green salad consisting of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and green olives (which I would pick out and eat sneakily as the rest of dinner was being prepared) was on our dinner table most evenings, usually dressed with my mom’s italian vinaigrette (oil, vinegar, and a packet of pre-mixed spices). Sometimes we had Israeli salad instead which was also a simple and predictable mix of finely chopped tomatoes and cucumbers sometimes with a bell pepper thrown in , dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. There were very clear distinctions between “salad and non-salad vegetables” and I knew what they were from a young age. Being told by my mother to “make the salad” never required any questioning on my part, as I set about the comforting rituals of lettuce-tearing and cucumber slicing. I am not putting down these salads of my youth, I loved them, but it did take some time for me to discover that vegetables tossed in a bowl with some seasoning need never be repetitive or predictable. Once you start to play around, you realize that the possibilities for salad fixings are pretty much endless. Both fresh and dried fruit can marry wonderfully with mixed greens, while a hard boiled egg or two can turn a salad into a light meal. Vegetables that are traditionally steamed, boiled or sauteed can also be fantastic raw, when thinly sliced and lightly dressed in a pungent vinaigrette.
In the past month or so I have eaten a couple of different salads that have literally blown every other salad I have ever enjoyed way out of the water. These recipes both come from my favorite source: old issues of Gourmet Magazine, and are sure to grab the attention of anyone at your dinner table who still considers salad an afterthought.
Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Cucumber and Watercress
This first Salad is a heavily adapted version of Gourmet’s Italian Vegetable Salad With Creamy Garlic Dressing, from their May 2009 issue. The changes I made had to do both with my own tastes, as well as what was available on the day I went to the market. If you would like to see the original recipe you can check it out here.
2 fennel bulbs
2-3 persian (mini) cucumbers
1 small head of radicchio
1-2 bunches watercress (I found something called ‘Upland Cress’ at my local market, it was incredibly fresh and spicy — if you see some, grab it)
3 large egg yolks
1 garlic clove, grated (use a Microplane)
2 flat anchovy fillets in oil, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Trim fennel (reserving fronds) and remove tough outer layer. Thinly slice fennel and cucmbers crosswise (1/8 inch). Slice radicchio as thinly as possible. Toss with cress.
Purée yolks, garlic, anchovies, mustard, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper in a blender. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until dressing is thick and emulsified.
Toss vegetables with enough dressing to coat. Season with salt. Sprinkle with fennel fronds.
The egg yolks in the dressing are not cooked. For a quicker, egg-safe dressing, use 2/3 cup mayonnaise in place of the yolks and oil.
Vegetables and dressing can be prepared 3 hours ahead and chilled separately (vegetables in sealable bags lined with damp paper towels).
Mixed Greens with Feta and Dates
This came from Gourmet’s June 2007 issue and originally called for arugula and radicchio. However, the arugula bunches at my local market are hardly ever worth buying and I happen to love the organic herb salad mix, packaged by ‘Locally Known‘ that Whole Foods carries, so I used that instead.
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup pitted dates
12-14 cups mixed greens (arugula, watercress, baby spinach, baby romaine, radicchio etc)
3 oz crumbled feta (I used a mild sheep’s milk feta)
Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl until well combined
Halve the dates lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise
Toss together greens, feta and dates and then toss with enough vinaigrette to coat