White platter of freshly picked seasonal salad greens with a jug of vinaigrette

When you sit down for a meal at a restaurant do you make a point of reading the green salad offering or have you learned to just skip it?

All too ofen, the seasonal green salad is one of those restaurant menu staples that is rarely a dish to remember. The salad offering almost never grabs your attention, but it appears on the menu all the same. It’s as though the chef felt obligated to offer something, but wasn’t really interested in doing it well.

Having read about the green salad’s long history, I find it surprising that it isn’t treated with more reverance and as more of an opportunity to celebrate season and texture. Even stranger, for a dish that’s so often over looked it seems to cause a lot of debates; just consider the arguments about when to eat a green salad … surely there are many more important things to fuss about? I’d like to change your attitude towards the seasonal green salad, I think, with care and attention it can be a standout star!

Fending for yourself

In South Wairarapa, New Zealand we are lucky enough to have space and a favourable climate for growing a broad range of seasonal vegetables. You really don’t need much space to establish a garden or even a perfect climate. While living in Scotland we enjoyed estasblishing a small garden to supplement our diet. It wasn’t large at all, just under 3 square metres on a fifth-floor balcony in Edinburgh and later in more extreme conditions, outside our cottage near the Mull of Kintyre. If you are determined to grow seasonal salad vegetables, herbs and flowers, you will find a way.

And of course, if you can’t grow them, there’s no reason at all you shouldn’t buy them – realistically this is the case for most people. To a supermarket salad mix, you can add fresh herbs and edible flowers or you could even forage. Think about the shapes, textures and colours. It might be called green salad, but that doesn’t need to restrict you. There’s no law that says salad has to be just green, and there are many options beyond lettuce.

Whether you like to add a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon or make a vinaigrette, this simple dish is the perfect way to add a few portions of leafy vegetables to your diet everyday.

A Seasonal Green Salad

There are no set rules (in my house) for what goes into a seasonal green salad, as the name implies, take your inspiration from what is in season. In our case, the garden is made up of hanging flower baskets, vegetable beds and weedy patches around trees and fences.

Ingredients:

Bundles of colourful fresh gardens greens, flowers and foraged weeds on a slatted white board
Top row – Carrot greens, Salad Burnett, Cavolo Nero, Red Vein Sorrel, Lettuce Drunken Woman, Purslane Middle row- Spinach, Beetroot leaves, Rocket, Lambs Quarters, Cos Lettuce, Dark Lollo Rossa Bottom row – Baby sprouts leaves, Flowers (bergamot, chive, viola, begonia, dianthus), Red Pak Choi, Nasturtium(leaves, flowers, seeds), Escarole, Dandelion

Method:

Pick wash and dry leaves. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Serve as individual portions or family style.

Dress the salad (drizzle with vinaigrette or dressing of choice) prior to serving.

Classic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 15ml red or white wine vinegar
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 5ml dijon or whole grain mustard
  • season to taste

Method:

Measure all  ingredinets into a small lidded jar and shake to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Variations

Classic vinaigrette ratio = 3 part oil : 1 part acid.

The oil componenet can be a single oil or a blend, nut oils have a stronger flavour, olive oils can have a range of strengths and tastes or there are mild oils such as canola, grapeseed or sunflower.

The juice of an acidic fruit – lemon, lime or even grapefruit, or an orange, can be used instead of a vinegars. Vinegars – from banana blossom to balsamic, wine vinegars or fruit, the options are almost endless. 

If experimenting, blend 1 tsp vinegar with 2-3 tsp of oil and taste.

Fresh herbs, fruit zest or finely diced shallots and garlic can be added for flavour.

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