Salad days of summer

If I were Michael Pollan and I were making up a motto for eating seasonally in New England in June, it would go something like this: Eat leaves. Mostly lettuce. All you can of it.

salad

Summer and fall are the seasons of lettuce, as my first farmshare box attested: one bunch of broccoli rabe and one of radishes, two bunches of herbs, and three heads of lettuce, with a bag of mesclun on the side. Because I know this is coming, I try to hold out in March, when the first signs of spring arrive and I start thinking lustfully about salad. I do my best to save up all of my salad cravings for June, so that when it comes, I can happily eat giant bowls of salad for lunch and dinner. And yet, even I can get bored by this regime. So here are some suggestions for salads to mix things up a bit.

1. Greens Since the point of your salad is to eat these, use plenty. You’ll thank yourself at lunchtime if you tear them into really bite-size pieces before washing carefully and spinning or patting them dry. To mix it up, combine greens: you can add spinach, baby kale or chard, and leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, or even dill to the bowl.

2. Raw vegetables The usual suspects of my childhood were carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers, plus maybe tomatoes. It turns out that there are many other options. You can use summer squash in ribbons, straight up or marinated first. Celery is best, in my opinion, if chopped up small; you can also add shredded raw celery root, cabbage, or kohlrabi. Avocado chopped into pieces is a nice addition, too. My current favorite is another spring crop: edible-pod peas.

3. Cooked vegetables This was the first revolution of my salad-eating life. Did you know you can put cooked vegetables in a salad and the salad police don’t come to get you? True story! Roasted beets were my first love in this arena, followed by grilled or broiled summer squash, mushrooms, and red peppers.

4. Beans It took me a long time to come around to this idea, but eventually I accepted that putting a bean salad on a bed of greens is actually a pretty great idea. My current favorite is white beans with goat cheese and walnuts.

5. Other stuff This category has several parts. Some people love crunchy stuff on salads – croutons, wonton noodles, or nuts, say. Bacon bits go here, or meat, or tofu. Some people like to add fresh or dried fruit. But my present obsession is with cheese. I’m into feta right now, but also love goat cheese, and have recently warmed to shaved Manchego as a salad topping.

6. Dressing Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a bottled-dressing-aholic. I am trying to overcome my addiction, though, and a proliferation of recipes for everything from vinaigrette to blue cheese dressings is helping me. Swapping dressings out can make the same salad seem different every day. If you’re bringing a salad with you, though, be sure to carry the dressing separately; greens go limp when coated for more than a few minutes.

Sorry for the long absence, everyone! I’ve been doing too much traveling and not enough cooking. My farmshare is now in full swing, though, so you can expect a regular round of recipes and the answer to all of your kale problems soon! In the meantime, if you have a farmshare vegetable or other ingredient you’re puzzling over, tell me about it in comments, and I’ll see what I can come up with.

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