In this installment of our summer series about enjoying in-season organic produce, learn simple tips for highlighting greens in fresh, well-spiced meals this summer!
By Tom Havran
There’s no more immediate and dazzling gustatory experience of fresh summer produce than a big bowl of tossed, succulent, summer-fresh greens. The perfect salad has come a long way from the cellophane-wrapped and watery supermarket iceberg lettuce dressed with great globs of bottled ranch. Greens are now a feast of colors and flavors from green, red and purple to sweet, bitter, sour and spicy.
How to prepare them: Immerse fresh-picked greens in cool water and give them a gentle swish. Invest in a mechanical salad spinner or spin the greens in a dishtowel to remove all water, then immediately dress, toss and devour them for the most intense flavor and greatest nutrient uptake. How you dress greens is a matter of preference and the food that you’re serving the salad with, but it’s virtually impossible to go wrong with a classic, made-from-scratch vinaigrette. For the best flavors choose a blend of greens that awaken all the taste buds:
- Sweet: lettuces, beet greens, mache, purslane
- Bitter: escarole, radicchio, endive, dandelion
- Sour: sorrels (garden, French, sheep)
- Spicy: mustard greens, arugula
Spices and herbs to complement: Dressings that feature aromatic spices such as celery seed, poppy seed, mustard seed, cracked black pepper and chili flakes add interesting accents. Fresh aromatics like onion, shallots and garlic complement and harmonize the various flavors of mixed fresh greens. Add more flavor notes with fragrant fresh herbs like tarragon, dill, fennel fronds, basil and chives.
Pairs well with: Accompany your greens with bread, in the form of a freshly-torn baguette, croutons or bread sticks. Or top them with cheese, especially shaved hard cheeses such as Parmesan or pungent stunners like bleu or gorgonzola. Turn salad into a main course meal by adding a protein such as fish, shrimp and chicken or marinated and grilled firm tofu. Also, vegetables, such as radishes, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers are natural pairings for salads.
5 Tips for enjoying greens:
- Make a potentially bland salad interesting by combining one or more greens that are sweet, bitter, sour and spicy in turn.
- Use freshly harvested and washed greens whenever possible.
- Remove all traces of rinse water to insure proper dispersion of the dressing in your salad.
- Never dress the greens ahead of time as they will wilt. Dress at time of service.
- Use tender bibb and leaf lettuces when they are at their best in cool spring and fall. Romaines and heading types are better in warmer months.
How do you like to eat fresh greens? Share your tips in the comments!
About the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.