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3 salad recipes to segue from winter to spring

Salads serve as a perfect segue from winter to spring. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Salads serve as a perfect segue from winter to spring. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Growing up, I knew summer was on the way not by the school calendar winding down or the warming of the sun, but when my mother would take her bathing suit out of the closet and model it around her bedroom. She would grumble about winter weight gain and grab at her middle in disgust. “We’re having salad for dinner!” she would announce to no one in particular.

Those it’s-almost-bathing-suit-season salads were anemic bowls of iceberg lettuce topped with bagged croutons and gloppy bottled salad dressing. It almost ruined the idea of salad for me. But years later, once I moved out of my parent’s house, had my own kitchen, and started cooking for myself, I discovered a world of lettuces, greens, herbs, fruits and vegetables. I discovered how deeply satisfying and complex a good salad can be. And, yes, salad can be dinner, but it doesn’t need to be attached to the idea of deprivation or, in my mother’s case, ‘punishment.’

Think of these three salad recipes as an introduction to a new season, a combination of color, textures and bright spring flavors. They are light but substantial and satisfying enough to be a main course for lunch or dinner.

And play around with these recipes. They are all highly adaptable and can be made more substantial by adding other vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, cheese, croutons or grilled bread slices, etc.

Asparagus, fried scallion, prosciutto and feta salad

Asparagus, fried scallion, prosciutto and feta salad. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

The variety of color, texture and flavor makes this main course salad something you’ll crave. Serve with warm crusty bread. You can easily omit the prosciutto if you don’t eat meat and double the amount of feta or add other vegetables.

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 large or 6 small scallions, white and green sections, ends trimmed and then cut lengthwise in half (or in quarters if large)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, salami, or cooked bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces creamy feta, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar


Instructions

  1. Cook the asparagus: Fill a medium-to-large skillet with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for about 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness, or until just tender. To test, place a small sharp knife into the thickest part of the stem. Drain, gently rinse with cold water and drain.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the 1 ½ tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, salt and pepper and cook, gently stirring for about 6 minutes, or until tender and getting crispy along the edges. Reduce the heat to medium and add the prosciutto (or salami or cooked bacon) and cook for another 2 minutes, letting the prosciutto crisp up a bit.
  3. Place the asparagus on a serving plate and top with the scallions, prosciutto and any oil from the skillet. Sprinkle on the feta cheese and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice. Season to taste.

Green green spring salad

Green green spring salad. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

An ode to spring and all things green: lettuce, fennel, avocado, chives, parsley and more make up this salad. A simple first course or side salad, you can amp this up to make a main course salad by adding chopped hard-boiled egg, cubes of cheese, slices of oranges, apples or pears, blue cheese, or croutons. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 small heads lettuce, or 1 large, like Bibb, little Gem or Romaine
  • 1 bulb fennel, core removed and thinly sliced (keep the frond on top)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds from the fennel you sliced
  • ½ cup walnut halves, toasted if you like*
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, cut into cubes


Dressing:

  • 1 ½ teaspoons mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


*To toast the walnuts: heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and toast, tossing them every few seconds, until you can smell their nuttiness and they begin to darken just slightly. Remove from the heat. 

Instructions

  1. Arrange the lettuce on a large plate or in a salad bowl, place the fennel slices in the center and sprinkle with the fronds. Scatter the walnuts and avocados around the salad.
  2. Make the dressing:  in a small bowl mix the mustard, salt and pepper and the fennel fronds, chives, parsley and vinegar. Whisk in the oil and season to taste. Serve the dressing on the side.

Spring white bean and artichoke salad with spring greens

Spring white bean and artichoke salad with spring greens. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

I love the textures in this main course (or side) salad: the buttery white beans, the briny artichoke hearts, crunchy cucumber, pungent crisp scallions and a flurry of fresh herbs. The beans can be made from scratch or drained from a can, but the vegetables and herbs should be as fresh as you can find. You can plump this salad up by adding chopped celery, walnut halves, and/or thin shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • One 15-ounce can white beans, drained, rinsed under cold water and drained again
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed cucumber, about 1 medium cucumber
  • 2 scallions, plus 1 for garnish, ends trimmed and very thinly chopped
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
  • ¾ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters if large
  • 1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus ½ tablespoon for garnish (if you don’t have fresh thyme use 1 tablespoon fresh parsley and ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Instructions

  1. Place the beans in a serving bowl or on a platter. Gently toss in the cucumber, 2 scallions, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, 1 ½ tablespoons thyme. Drizzle on the olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top the salad with the scallion and thyme and serve at room temperature or cold.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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