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Natural Awakenings

Salad Lovers’ Salads: Signature Dishes from the Garden or Farmers’ Market

Mar 31, 2011 11:34AM ● By Judith Fertig

Going green—at least on our plates—has never been easier. Every season, it seems that more varieties of fresh greens are available at farmers’ markets and in selections of nursery plants or seeds for home gardeners. Not so long ago, Americans generally thought of salad as pale iceberg lettuce with high-fat bottled dressing or some mixture of veggies, bound together with mayonnaise. These days, we can choose from among a bounty of tender lettuces and exotic greens, topped with extra virgin olive oils and splashed with colorful creative counterpoints that add zest and yum.

Salads today provide a culinary canvas for both the cook and the gardener. A signature salad generally comprises several key ingredients: cool, crisp, fresh and nutritious greens; a fresh-tasting, low-calorie dressing; and bite-size fruits, nuts, vegetables or cheeses that add flavor, texture and interest.

For the greens, tender leaf or Bibb lettuce, crisp Romaine or cabbage, sliced or finely chopped, make the best-tasting salads. For the best-tasting dressings, cooks whisk ingredients together in a bowl minutes before serving. We can drizzle them over each salad, serve them in a small pitcher on the side or place the salad in a large bowl, and then toss to incorporate the dressing. Added accents have expanded to include everything from soft fruits such as strawberries and oranges; savory and salty crumbled feta or blue cheeses; or something crunchy, like toasted almonds or walnuts, in addition to ubiquitous garden-fresh vegetables, such as scallions or tomatoes. Adding a healthy hot or cold protein makes a salad even more of a main course. Altogether, in ever-evolving combinations, today’s wide-ranging healthful ingredients can work edible magic.

Judith Fertig is a freelance writer in Overland Park, KS; see



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