A simple green salad can be a perfect thing. Choose an interesting mix of greens, some spicy, some sweet, some tender and some crisp. Dress it simply and lightly. (I like a sherry vinaigrette composed of a little minced shallot, a tiny bit of dijon, sherry vinegar and good olive oil). Gently pile the salad high on a plate, and polka-dot it with edible flowers. When the greens are good and the dressing is balanced, you won’t wish for crumbled cheese or croutons!
Here are some hints. If you’ve never made your own salad dressing, start now! Begin with equal parts of acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and oil, and a pinch of salt in a small jar. Shake it up and taste it. Is it too sour? Add more oil. Does it taste flat? Try a bit more acid or salt. Not sure? Dip a leaf in it and taste it again. Dijon will help emulsify the mixture. A drop of honey or a pinch of sugar rounds it out. Add garlic, shallot, or herbs for complexity. Now mix and vary dressings to your hearts content.
To dress the salad without drowning it, pour a little dressing in a large bowl, then gently toss the greens in it. This way, you can add just enough gloss and flavor to each leaf. If the salad needs more dressing, pour it down the side of the bowl instead of directly onto the salad, and then toss some more. Also, make sure the greens are dry before you dress them, so the dressing will stick instead of sliding off.
Picked edible flowers can be hard to find and expensive, and they wilt fast. You are often better off buying a potted plant: pansies, violas, marigolds or nasturtiums are tasty and easy to care for. Water the plant whenever the soil feels dry. Pluck any blossoms that wilt. The plant will yield a couple of rounds of flowers for you.
But this shouldn’t be fussy, it’s a simple pleasure. Time to get to the farmers market, or scatter some seeds, and begin our salad days.
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