Salad Days

It’s time to put away the crockpot and set aside the soup and chili recipes: bold, colorful and fresh salads are reborn for Spring.



Spring is just around the corner. You know what that means. It’s time to put away the crockpot, set aside the soup and chili recipes, and start focusing on salads. Not only are salads an ideal meal option as the weather begins to warm, but they also provide a host of health benefits. In fact, experts say that having salad every day may be one of the healthiest eating habits you can adopt— and one of the simplest.

Salads are a super-convenient way to incorporate more fiber, fruit and vegetables into your daily diet, ultimately helping to promote weight control, higher levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in the blood and a lower risk of cancer.

Below you’ll find salads to satisfy any craving or suit any menu—from light lunch or starter salads to a protein-rich main dish salad. And, best of all, none require the purchase of iceberg lettuce! No, the recipes we’ve chosen are rich with lively, interesting ingredients that you may not have thought about adding to salad—persimmons, blood oranges, pistachios, poppy seeds. So read on, assemble a shopping list and hit the produce aisle in your favorite grocery store. It’s time to start spinning, tearing, slicing—and enjoying!

 

Endive Salad

  • ¾ cup pistachios
  • 4 heads red or white Belgian endive
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • 2 Fuyu persimmons
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. champagne vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

In a small dry frying pan, toast the pistachios over medium-low heat, stirring, until fragrant and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool, then chop coarsely and set aside.

Trim the ends from the endive, separate the leaves, and place in a large bowl. Seed the pomegranate and pat the seeds dry. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice the persimmons into thin slices.

Add the pomegranate seeds, persimmons, cheese and pistachios to the endive leaves.

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is smooth.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and gently toss. Season with additional salt and pepper and serve.

Look for the Fuyu variety of persimmons, which are sweet and firm, and easy to cut very thin. Any salty or tangy cheese will do; try using fresh goat cheese or ricotta salata in place of the feta.

 

Radicchio Salad

  • 1 blood orange, peeled and segmented with a knife
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head radicchio, leaves torn
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup red sorrel leaves or additional baby spinach leaves

To make the vinaigrette, using a fork, break up the blood orange segments into bite-sized pieces. Add the vinegar and then the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the radicchio, spinach and sorrel in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

This red-and-green medley is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Blood oranges impart their deep color to the vinaigrette, and small bites of the orange segments tucked among the leaves are both gorgeous and delicious.

 

Flank Steak Salad

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1½ Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1½ Tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1½ Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 flank steak, about 1½ lbs. and 1–1½ inches thick
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2–3 tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into wedges, plus a handful of mixed cherry tomatoes, halved

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, thyme, marjoram, mustard, garlic, and ¾ tsp. each salt and pepper. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is well blended. Place the steak in a shallow dish. Pour half of the vinaigrette over the steak and turn to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally. Cover and refrigerate the remaining vinaigrette. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and grill the steak, turning once or twice and brushing with the reserved marinade for up to 5 minutes before the steak is done, until nicely charred and cooked to your liking, 10–12 minutes total for medium-rare. Let the steak rest for 5–10 minutes.

While the steak is resting, place the onion wedges on the grill and cook until softened and nicely grill-marked, about 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain, reserving any juices that accumulate. Toss the lettuce with the reserved vinaigrette, and divide among individual plates. Top with the steak, onion wedges and tomatoes. Drizzle the steak with the meat juices and serve.

Flank steak is a great choice for salads, as it is full flavored but must be tenderized by thin-slicing across the grain—letting you toss it easily with other ingredients. Look for cherry tomatoes in mixed sizes and colors for
visual interest.

 

Fennel Salad

  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
  • 4 blood or navel oranges, peeled with a knife and thinly sliced crosswise

Halve the fennel bulbs lengthwise and, using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the halves crosswise into paper-thin slices.

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is smooth. Add the arugula and fennel and toss to coat evenly with the vinaigrette. Mound the mixture on a platter, distribute the orange slices over and around the salad, and serve.

To make this crisp salad even more refreshing, slice the fennel just before serving rather than in advance, and keep the bulbs cold until just before slicing. Unless it is dressed, fennel will discolor if allowed to sit for more than 20 minutes after slicing.

 

Warm Mushroom Salad

  • 1 lb. mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 Tb. unsalted butter
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tb. whole-grain mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head radicchio, cored and separated into leaves
  • 1 cup arugula leaves, stemmed (optional)

Remove any tough stems from the mushrooms. Trim the bases of the remaining stems. If desired, thickly slice the mushrooms.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add about two-thirds of the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are tender and the moisture they release evaporates, 6–8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining shallots, the oil, vinegar and mustard. Keep warm.

Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl, add the bacon mixture and toss to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the radicchio and arugula, if using, and toss to coat the leaves well with dressing. Serve warm.

Fry bacon until crisp and brown, and then warm sherry vinegar in the same pan to form a salty-smoky vinaigrette for the mushrooms. Bitter radicchio and peppery arugula are layered with the warm mushroom mixture for extra flavor, color and crunch.

 

Strawberry Salad

  • ¼ cup pecans
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 tsp. poppy seeds
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup grapeseed oil
  • 6 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved

In a dry frying pan, toast the pecans over medium-low heat, stirring, until fragrant and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, poppy seeds, dry mustard, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is well blended.

In a large bowl, toss together thespinach, strawberries and pecans. Add half of the vinaigrette and toss gently to coat. Add more vinaigrette as needed (you may not need all of it), and serve.

It is easy to love this popular combination. Light and delicious, it is best prepared when strawberries are at their early-summer peak. The dressing is slightly sweet, and the poppy seeds and chopped pecans add nice texture. Goat cheese, ricotta salata or feta cheese would make a great addition.

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