A good green salad doesn’t come in a plastic pouch. Every time I tear one open I find myself disappointed by the too-tiny, too-tender leaves well on their way to wilting. A bagged salad can dim your enthusiasm for all things fresh and green. So take some time and choose your greens carefully. It’s fun! When shopping, I try to emulate that just-picked feeling, choosing lettuce as if harvesting from a well-tended garden. I’m surprised how many times little gem lettuce ends up in my shopping bag.
As anyone who has ever had a skilled cook bring them a simple salad knows, in the right hands, there’s something remarkable about a well-made salad. No matter how complex, rich, or indulgent the dinner proves to be – there’s room for a salad with every meal. The right ratios of explosive tastes and textures dressed in light-stepping vinaigrette can dance across the palate with energy and grace. Hyperbole aside, what I’m trying to say is that a good green salad is damn good food.
The mastery of a simple salad, for me, is emblematic of a good home cook. You don’t have to fuss it up too much and you can serve it year-round. When I dine at home, which is often, it’s a rare meal that doesn’t include a salad of green leaves. Nothing fancy: pasta, soup, or a roast chicken, with a bottle of wine and some sort of simple salad. That’s damn good food.
By definition, the green salad is a seasonally evolving mix of vegetables dressed in a good vinaigrette. It is difficult to be dictatorial about the ingredients. The best green salad recipes rely on a simple formula of contrasting elements. If the salad is very crunchy, add something soft. If it seems sweet, add something salty. If it’s on the rich side, nudge it back into balance with something acidic.
This Gem Lettuce Salad with Grapes and Blue Cheese delivers on that promise. Crunchy leaves of baby gem lettuce, a block of creamy blue cheese, toasted walnuts, celery, and green grapes. That is all it takes to make this green salad simultaneously silky, crunchy, clean, sharp, and damn good. GREG