This is the kind of salad Lynne was raised with. Every night it was a big bowl of mixed greens — tart and mild, changing with what her mother fancied.
Dressing was never made on the side and added to the salad. Instead, dressing the salad was a ritual always done at the table. Her mother sprinkled salt and pepper on the greens, tossed them with only enough olive oil to give them a little gleam, sprinkled on a little vinegar and tossed again. Then she tasted, considered, added a little more salt, or oil, or vinegar and finally, when she deemed it done, she served it up.
We turn that salad into a main event by adding a little protein.
1 medium red onion, cut into thin rounds
4 cups ice water
Pale green inner leaves of large head of curly endive, or frisée or other tangy-tasting greens
Pale inner leaves of large head of escarole, romaine, cos, or an entire small head of oak leaf lettuce
1 small head red leaf or
2 cups or so of raw vegetables (cucumber, green tomatoes, broccoli, sugar snap peas, corn, squash — you get the idea)
1/3 cup salted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, and/or canned beans and a handful shredded cheese
1 to 2 cups leftover meat, soy foods, seafood or poultry (optional)
1/2 lightly-packed cup fresh herb leaves (parsley, basil, mint, coriander)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 5 tablespoons robust and peppery extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 5 tablespoons good-tasting wine or cider vinegar
1. Combine onion and ice water and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Wash and thoroughly dry the greens; tear into bite-size pieces and turn into a big salad bowl.
3. Just before serving, drain the onions and pat dry. Sprinkle the greens with salt, pepper, herbs and drained onions. Add whatever additional ingredients you’d like.
4. Don’t dress the salad until you’re ready to serve it. At the table, toss the greens with enough oil to barely coat them, using about 2 tablespoons to start; then toss with vinegar to taste, starting with 2 tablespoons. Taste for balance as you go, making sure vinegar is assertive, but not harsh. Once the salad is where you want it, serve it up.
From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.
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