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.

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Simple is often the hardest to do well, and the best! That salad looks divine.

Chocolate shavings

simplicity at its best. I love your recipes, they are full of life. I recently made the split peas soup, it was fantastic. Thanks very much.


2 things: it’s actually even better to fill the outer bowl of the salad spinner with water FIRST and then set the basket inside, wash the lettuce and spin it dry–the running water from the faucet can bruise your lettuce (tricked learned from my favorite professional chef). the second is that i bought this gadget that’s kind of a big round plastic ball that stores lettuce that’s been washed in the fridge. it really keeps the greens fresh longer–i’m terrible with the plastic bag storage, i just can’t get it to work


For all the people who say they wrap their washed lettuce in newspaper–doesn’t that defeat the purpose of washing it in the first place? if grimy, black newsprint rubs off so easily on dry fingertips, isn’t this just asking for ink-stained, dirty lettuce and pools of inky water in your plastic bag? i feel as though i’m missing something about how the newspaper+water+lettuce works.

curious about ink

As a devoted daily salad-eater, I couldn’t agree more regarding the paramount importance of fresh, vibrant lettuce. Thought I would mention, however, that I try to avoid storing anything in disposable plastic bags (bound for land-fill), and my solution is to store the lettuce in the spinner in the fridge. If you have a good spinner, the lid will lock on tight enough to keep your greens fresh for a few days, once they are clean and dry. Then lunch can just be grabbing a few handfuls, adding toppings and dressing and you’re set. It does take up some room in the fridge, but I’m all too happy to have the lettuce crowd out other, less delicious and healthful items. Thanks for the post!


That salad simply looks like spring! It makes me anxious for the first baby greens at the local market!

Deborah Dowd

It is SO nice to know I am NOT alone – there are many others concerned with wonderful greens! 🙂


Hi Heidi,
Just a short note to let you know that you have been nominated to IFP (Inspiring Food Photography) in May:
Enjoy your day, Margot

Coffee and Vanilla

I adore fresh greens from my garden. That is if I can keep the squirrels out of my patch. A lovely salad…a perfect celebration of Spring.
Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Sheltie Girl

That salad looks delicious. I looove freshly picked lettuce – salads made entirely from the garden in the backyard are always the best!


I adore your lettuce lecture – too many of us have gone through lives with this delightful veggie simply “tossed on the side”, and often the highlight of salads is not the lettuce, which is just used as filler.
Demanding good produce, in general, is not snobbery. But quality is of little consequence if the prize is jammed into a suffocating bag with litle or no thought to its handling.
Wonderful. I look forward to your further advice.


Yummy….. I love it.


The best way for adding just enough dressing to a salad without overpowering it is to add the dressing to the lettuce while in the salad spinner (after it has been washed). Then spin the lettuce to rid the excess dressing!

The Pearl Onion

The best way for adding just enough dressing to a salad without overpowering it is to add the dressing to the lettuce while in the salad spinner (after it has been washed). Then spin the lettuce to rid the excess dressing!

The Pearl Onion

We essentially have a “lettuce garden” in our fridge. i’ve been getting my lettuce at the farmers market in whole heads, with their roots. I just store them in a shallow pan with about 1/2″ of water, and plusk a few leaves as needed. it lasts about two weeks or more.


i just planted a patch full of red- and green-leaf lettuce over the weekend. it’s growing merrily away, and i’m not sure how i’m going to stop myself from eating the whole patch at one go.

michelle @ TNS

Ditto to everything you said about the elegant simplicity of salads. I LOVE my oxo (or, is it xox) salad spinner. It’s one of my 10 essentials. The only thing I’d add is that I use the water I rinsed the lettuce in to water my plants (even if it means saving it in the watering pot). It has some good nutrients in it from the dirt and lettuce and you don’t feel guilty throwing it down the drain. 🙂
Love your blog and I have your cookbook! Thanks!


Thanks for all the tips about buying and using lettuce Heidi. Lettuce is something considerably new to me and I often flounder when buying it. I love romaine and little gems the most. Now I know what to look for when buying the stuff


Not sure if anyone else said this (scanned through the comments, but I always miss things). I often prep all my greens and dressing the same way you do, but actually put my greens in the bowl on top of the dressing. If I don’t toss everything, the greens and dressing can coexist peacefully for quite a long time, particularly if I put it in the fridge (this keeps the greens a little crisper, at least for an hour or so).
Then you can bring the bowl to the table and toss right before serving, preserving the optimal state of the food without compromising space (I find that leaving the bowl with dressing separate from the greens in their spinner clogs my counters). Just a thought!
(P.S. I believe Ina Garten employs this same trick for some of her entertaining-type salads.)


I just love spring salads..they are such a great way to stuff up on all the veggies..and everything looks so crisp and fresh! I made a Spring Salad too last week with cranberries, pecans and greens:)


I love your combination of nuts and fruits here 🙂


Yes, I stopped using bagged lettuce long ago. I disagree about only finding the greenist at the farmer’s market, though. I’ve been pretty successful with natural foods stores.


Just popping by to say congrats on the mention in the May issue of Women’s Health. 🙂


*sigh* I can’t wait for fresh greens here. Nothing makes a better salad than when you pick them and wash them and they are still slightly warmed from the sun when you eat the salad. Mmmmm…too bad it snowed here last night. This after a week in the 70’s F.


Oh, it’s true. Fresh, perfect lettuce is like manna from heaven. We joined a CSA last year, and I was so shocked by the beauty of a bag of baby arugula that I ate it out of hand on the drive home. No dressing. No fork. No anything. Just snacked on bare leaves.


My mesclun greens are just in need of thinning… and now I know just how I’ll dress them! I can’t wait!


About recyclable bags for storing greens- often, when you buy flowers, they come in conical perforated wrappers. These are great for lettuce- the conical shape holds it in without squashing the leaves, and the perforation lets it breathe. Whether you need a newspaper or a paper towel as well depends on your refrigerator, I guess. (We just got rid of one that dated from the ’70s, and all the vegetables last much longer now…). I sometimes keep lettuce in the bottle rack of the fridge.


I love the recipe, have suggestion about how to preserve the lettuce, after you wash it you wrap it in a news paper , before you put it in the refrigerator..
nice deals


I just love the photo. Motivates me to cook the recipe as soon as possible! Moreover the salad is just right for the hot Delhi summer.


mmm that dressing sounds so refreshing.


thanks so much for a lovely salad recipe you sent . I just wait to receive your recipe


This is one of the best salad i have ever come across,infact gave the recipe to my sis who loved it…….way to go heidi.


What kind of bag do you put your washed and dried lettuce in? Do you use anything special or do you keep it in plastic bags from the grocery store?

Jo Lee

Just coming into our mild winter here in Queensland so your salad is perfect. Also
made it with pine nuts when I ran out of
walnuts. Very enjoyable.


“Ha[s] anyone used the bags [plastic?] designed for lettuce and greens? Do they work? Are they reusable? …I am looking for a more ecological solution that could be re-used.”
I have used the bags that are perforated to let greens breathe, and they work pretty well. I still find that I need to put a paper towel in the bag so that the leaves don’t stick to the sides and wilt. The best lettuce-keeping results I’ve gotten are with washed greens in one of those crazy “green bags” again with a paper towel. http://www.amazon.com/Debbie-Meyer-Greenbags-TM-set/dp/B000MXM5EY/ref=pd_bbs_4?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1209426199&sr=8-4
I rinse out the green bags and take them with me to the market with my canvas bags.


The lettuce is just starting to sprout in my midwest garden. Spring is finally here!
I wash my lettuce in a large crock bowl in several changes of water, throwing the dirty, gritty water out into the garden. I then take a pure cotton pillow case (saved only for lettuce), put the washed lettuce into it and take it out into the yard and twirl-whirl it around & around, spinning the lettuce dry. I then store the lettuce in a plastic bag with a soft, lint-free cotton dish cloth in the bottom. I love your recipes, Heidi!

Lark at Cosmos Cabin

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.


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 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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