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Salute to the salad

I think all too often salad gets the shaft. We think of salad as a mish mash of iceberg lettuce and mealy tomatoes.

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Ilina Ewen
Ilina Ewen

I think all too often salad gets the shaft. We think of salad as a mish mash of iceberg lettuce and mealy tomatoes. (Side bar: What exactly is the point of iceberg lettuce and who buys it? While it offers crunch, it provides no nutritional value. I'm a big believer in making every crunch count, in flavor and nutrients.) We are salad fiends at my house, but there are two things you'll never find in my fridge - iceberg lettuce and bottled salad dressing.

We eat salad almost every single night, and in summer it takes center stage as the star of our meal. My youngest son is a veritable rabbit and prefers a side salad to fruit or fries when we go to Chick-fil-A for a treat. Whether we're noshing on spinach or hearts of palm or endive, my sons devour their salads at dinner. With a bit of olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic, you can whip up a tasty vinaigrette that's yummy, healthy, and fresh. I add fresh herbs and dijon mustard to my vinaigrette to mix things up once in a while. If you use stellar ingredients in your salad, you don't need bottled chemicals and high fructose corn syrup to mask the hearty earthy flavors.

Some of our family's favorite concoctions that I toss in the ancient wooden salad bowl that is admittedly reminiscent of 1974:

  • Spinach with dried cranberries and walnuts (Looking forward to fresh spinach from my very own garden this summer!)
  • Hearts of palm with Belgian endive, red onions, and pecans
  • Mache with roasted beets, goat cheese, and pistachios
  • Caesar salad, replete with chopped anchovies (Add the anchovies to the dressing if you can't stomach them in the salad. Trust me, the added flavor is fantastic.)
  • Romaine with sliced tomatoes, avocados, red onion, and cilantro (I call this salsa salad.)
  • Cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, chopped chili peppers, cilantro (Dolled up with sea salt and the squeeze of one lemon.)
  • Julienned carrots mixed with minced garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice (My friend Kim turned me onto this from the Orangette blog. Simple salad that is lovely and delicious!)
  • Snap peas, spinach, Italian parsley, green onions with a creamy yogurt herb dressing (The all green palate is gorgeous. Who says a tossed salad must be inspired by Crayola?)

So as you can see, we consume our fair share of salads. And we relish every bite. With fresh ingredients, you're bound to dish up a tasty side that's worthy of more limelight than we bestow on the lowly salad. Toss out your vision of a tossed salad and experiment with all the greens and goodies that fill our farmers market stands well into the fall. I say it's time to salute the salad!

Ilina is the mom of two and lover of all food, so she writes about it here every Wednesday. You can always find her on her own blog Dirt & Noise.

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