First Salad of the Season
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Photo by Judith Hausman
Spring salads may not have a lot of bulk, but they sure can have a variety of spring flavors.
We all feel starved for fresh, invigorating vegetables in the early springtime, and those first, local salads of the season are so welcome. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some overwintered spinach at your local farmers market; and since tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are still months away (except for those raised in the greenhouse), we have to be creative with the chosen additions to the greens.
Especially with a bacon-based dressing, wilted salad is kind of a retro pleasure; it bridges the seasons with warm dressing, which can also soften tougher greens. I use a simple balsamic vinaigrette with a little honey and substitute prosciutto for the heavier bacon. You can experiment with hazelnut oil or sherry vinegar with mustard for the dressing, too. Try making the dressing in a pan by briefly sautéing the garlic, onion and prosciutto with some mushrooms in the olive oil and then adding the other ingredients (except the cheese). Later in the season, you can also try the dressing on beet greens and chard.
Garnish the salad with hardboiled eggs; slices of avocado; walnuts; sections of an orange or grapefruit; grated, cold-stored apples, carrots or beets; fancy spring mushrooms; a scattering of beans; or a handful of dried cranberries.
Wilted Spring Salad
- 1 pound spinach, trimmed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 small red onion, cut in rings
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 pound prosciutto, cut in strips
- 1/4 cup Gorgonzola or feta, crumbled or Parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
Wash and dry the spinach thoroughly and place in a salad bowl. In a small saucepan, gently warm the olive oil, garlic, onion, vinegar and honey for 7 to 10 minutes to soften the onion. Pour the warmed dressing over the spinach and top with the prosciutto and cheese. Season with salt and pepper, toss and serve immediately with suggested garnishes above.
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