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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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! Melissa


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


Heidi, 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

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