Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Salads to Brighten Lunch or Dinner

March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice. ~Hal Borland

It's March and though it's only 46 here today you can still see the signs of spring. It won't be long and we'll be able to grow our own greens and the produce sections of our stores will start to bring in local growers. As a kid I thought a head of iceberg lettuce cut into chunks with dressing on it was a salad. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized all the variety that was out there in creating salads.

Iceberg is really the least nutritious of salad greens, so use it with other greens or skip it all together and try something different.

Start with a mixture of greens for your salad first. Use a mixture of mild and crispy greens such as romaine, escarole, endive or Buttercrisp. Mix in spinach and a bit of arugula, radicchio, watercress which have a stronger taste. It's the mixture of the greens that make a good salad. If you use only one variety of lettuce it's not as tasty. Once you have decided on your salad "base", toss it gently, then add your other vegetables:

shredded carrot
sugar snap peas
red, green or yellow peppers
red onion or green onion
nasturtium petals
calendula petals (pull out discard center)
shredded raw beets
dandelion greens (untreated)
fresh peas, uncooked

Do be cautious of the dressings you use on your salads, because the fat and calories vary greatly. If you like a lot of dressing on your salad, consider light or no fat varieties. If you only use a tablespoon or two, then full fat dressings aren't as big of a deal. The creamy full fat cheese dressings are the highest in calories and fat.

I know the extras on salads can make all the difference to taste but remember that a small amount is always better because too much of a "extra" can make your salad worse than a double cheeseburger. Be cautious of:

Dried fruit

Instead of bacon, try chopping turkey, grilled chicken or lean ham in your salad. Sprinkle a little bit of Parmesan cheese on your salad instead of cheddar cheese. Dried fruit can really perk up a salad, but only add a small amount. Fat free croutons are crunchy and not as bad as traditional Caesar type croutons. If you overwhelm your salads with creamy dressing and a lot of extras you aren't doing yourself any favors. The greens and vegetables really do have their own unique tastes, so don't drown them.

On OFL we have a very interesting article on using edible weeds:

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