A Simple Spring Salad

A Simple Spring Salad Recipe

Perfect lettuce glows. I don't know a better way of describing it. Unfortunately, the glow doesn't last long. From the minute lettuce is picked, you're in a race against time and the elements. Tick, it is getting smashed by your other groceries. Tock, it's starting to wilt. Great lettuce emanates a color and vibrancy that makes you believe it is still alive. Chances are, by the time you encounter lettuce in your local grocery store the glow has long since faded. I hate to be too snobby, but you really have to go to the farmers' market to seek it out.

Once you get in the habit of enjoying salads made from just-picked baby lettuce, it becomes increasingly difficult (if not impossible) to reach for those bags of pre-washed lettuce or spinach. While not much of a recipe, I thought I'd share a simple spring salad I threw together for lunch the other day - peppered with black olives, oranges, and walnuts. My hope is that it might encourage you to seek out (or grow your own) perfect lettuce this year. I just planted a bunch of lettuce on my back patio, but I'll save that story for a separate post.

A few tips:

- Good shopping is the key to making a memorable salad. Buy the freshest lettuce you can find and completely baby it. Bruised lettuce is bad lettuce.

- Wash and dry your lettuce as soon as you get it home, this way you'll have it at the ready for days to come. I use a salad spinner to wash AND dry my lettuce. Place the lettuce in the basket of a salad spinner. Place the basket of lettuce in the bigger outer bowl and fill the entire thing with cold water. Gently swish the leaves around to loosen up any dirt or grit. Drain off the water by lifting the basket out and dumping out the dirty water. Repeat once or twice more. Now spin the lettuce dry. Place (along with a paper towel or two) in a bag in your refrigerator until ready to use.

- Don't cram your lettuce into the bag. Let it have some space. Think of your bags of lettuce as pillows - you don't want all the lettuce smashed together. Instead, aim to have it fluffed and even throughout its storage bag.

- Resist the urge to drown your salad, and keep in mind that you can always add, but never take away dressing. And I know you've heard it before, but it's important enough that I'll say it again - dress your salad just before you are going to serve it. Right that moment. Not five or ten or (god-forbid) twenty minutes ahead of time.

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Simple Spring Salad Recipe

1 and 1/2 orange, juice only
1/2 lemon, juice only
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon fine grain salt

4 big handfuls of salad greens, washed and dried
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
1/3 cup black olives, (the wrinkly, oily ones), pitted

In a medium bowl whisk together the juice of 1/2 orange, lemon juice, most of the red onion, olive oil, and salt. Whisk together until emulsified, taste and adjust with more salt or lemon juice if needed.

Peel the remaining orange and cut into segments, removing any seeds you might encounter. Set aside.

When you're ready to serve, place the salad greens in a large bowl. Toss very gently with a generous splash of the dressing. Add the orange segments and walnuts. Give another toss. Taste and decide if you need to add more dressing, if needed, add a bit more at a time, giving a good toss between additions. Make sure the nuts and citrus haven't all gone to the bottom, help them back up to the top if needed. Serve salad topped with the remaining red onion and olives.

Serves 4.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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You're right, Heidi - nothing compares with freshly picked lettuce, and it's easier to grow than many people think. I've become so obsessed with just-picked salad greens that I often find myself out in the kitchen garden harvesting dinner in the dark! You and your readers might be interested in this popular post I put up last year on my kitchen garden blog: How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce From Seed

Farmgirl Susan

I usually store my lettuce as whole heads. I wrap it in a sheet or two of newspaper, make the paper wet and put it in a plastic bag. This suits me quite well because sometimes I'm too lazy to make a salad, and storing lettuce this way keeps it fresh for more than a week (if it has to be). If the outer leaves aren't pretty any more, I just "peel" them off and use the leaves underneath.


love what you do,,, just found you and so appreciate your endeavors to produce, promote and publish healthy eating,,, beautiful photography, and a sense of beauty and abundance on our luscious earth.-- cheers to you and visit us in Los Angeles for tea time~~ d&c


WOW Heidi! I've only just read this recipe and my mouth is watering. I'm having a brunch next weekend and guess what my salad is going to be? Thanks for doing what you do...and doing it so well.


Heidi, I think your washing tips are the absolute key. I'm in a CSA (Boston area) and early on it's an absolute must to clean and store the greens or they'll be rotten before you can eat them. I actually scrub down the sink and wash them in there as I'm usually doing three or four heads at a time, but the same principle applies. Keep up the good work. This devoted carnivore makes recipes off your site all the time!

Jeff D

oh your picture is gorgeous! i can't wait for the farmers markets to start in Boston. I've been making my own dressing for salads and there is nothing like it.

The Spotted Apron

Great reminder or 'heads up' that fresh is best and worth the effort of seeking it out. Just made virtually the same salad for lunch. Used a Granny Smith, red onion and toasted walnuts with a light balsamic vinaigrette...and a few humble crumbles of Gorgonzola...the tender fresh leaves were certainly the highlight! Thanks Heidi.


The only thing that could possibly make this salad better (or any salad for that matter) is big crisp garlicky croûtons. Toast a thick slice of some crusty bread. Toast it DARK. Rub a garlic clove lightly over it's surface. Gentle, the toast acts as sand paper. Brush the toast(s) with some good olive oil. Then cut or tear it into small chunks and toss it into the salad while it is still warm. It will soak up a little of the dressing and add a warm and chewy component to the salad. Yummmmmmm


I love a good salad...especially with ctirusy vinaigrette :)


Ha anyone used the bags [plastic?] designed for lettuce and greens? Do they work? Are they reusable? I currently use a regular large plastic bag with a paper towel or two in it to absorb excess moisture, and also provide it. It works fabulously, but I am looking for a more ecological solution that could be re-used. I do rinse out the plastic bag and the paper towel, dry it and re-use it but not too many times as I am concerned doing that.


We planted our back lawn in vegetables this year (raised beds) and are eating delightfully delicious salads every day. What a difference in taste from the ones in the grocery store, or even the market, as within minutes we can have FRESH. Simple greens, a dash of dressing, and I Have smiles the entire meal. All for free, except for buying the seeds.


I entirely agree! Fresh lettuce is so far superior to anything in the stores. I can't wait until our farmer's market opens. :-)

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

Ah, there's nothing wrong with being a "food snob" when it comes to market fresh greens. I know we're lucky to have access to such gorgeous food, but it DOES make it hard to eat it any other way. I had some glowing lettuce this weekend and it gave me the glow. :) Sadly, though we have a store that carries local food, there really aren't many greens available yet. Winter has stretched long this year and I think the greens will just be rolling in, in earnest, over the next few weeks. My favorite way to dress a simple greens salad is with tarragon (which is, blessedly, coming back in the garden) citrus dressing. Sometimes I toss in some Dijon, but sometimes I find it too strong for the delicate greens.

Becky And The Beanstock

I suggest loosely/gently wrapping your lettuce in a piece of paper towel or two, or a freshly washed dish towel, before you put it in a bag. This seems to keep the lettuce drier and crisper in the fridge.


Moved from Montana to Oregon, where people understand "spring greens"... don't think I can ever go back to eating them the way I used to. Our solution : Grow them right out back. Thanks for the simple and bold recipe.


i've planted lettuces for the first time this year, in containers on my porch. they are thriving beautifully, and i'm in CT where the weather isn't exactly balmy! i'm really looking forward to 'free' salads this summer.


I thoroughly enjoy your photos and writings and the Spring Salad sounds like just what we need to bring a bit of sunshine into our home today. I have everything on hand, so it is the perfect lunch as Chicago is 38 with snow flurries predicted.


Heidi I read your blog religiously and usually don't comment. However, the salad and your commentary made it impossible for me to remain silent. I totally concur. And your simple presentation and dressing is absolutely perfect....."Understated Elegance" Mark

Mark Boxshus

Nice and simple salad - perfect for this time of year. I get less hungry when it's hot out and it's definitely getting to be that way now. We've been having the most amazing weather here in Northern Cali. Softball last night was perfect temperature...even though we lost like 19 to 5. - The Peanut Butter Boy


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