Salads make the perfect meal this time of year, when greens are plentiful.
Iceberg lettuce is not needed when you have so many other choices. Even the weeds in your back yard can provide the makings for a great salad. Wild edibles and heartier garden greens are ideal for jazzing up your summer menu.
Karin Rasmussen said Bluegrass Farmers Market, which sells only locally grown produce, has kale, beet, mustard, Swiss chard and collard greens for summer salads.
"The kale, Swiss chard and collards are usually available for most of the summer. But the mustard greens tend to bolt with just a bit of heat, and the beet greens are lost once the actual beet is harvested," she said.
Innovative chefs are setting a trend by creating out-of-the-ordinary salads and other dishes with foraged plants that grow in back yards or nearby forests and meadows.
In a new book, Foraged Flavor, Tama Matsuoka Wong and Eddy Leroux write about foraging for wild plants and how to identify and harvest them. Wong is the forager for Daniel, the flagship restaurant owned by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. Leroux is Daniel's chef de cuisine.
Wong helps readers identify plants including stinging nettle, anise hyssop, creeping jenny, lavender bergamot and field mustard, and Leroux gives recipes to showcase the foraged finds, including sautéed daylily shoots with miso dressing, wisteria flowers and French beans, creeping jenny with tomatoes and mozzarella, and chickweed with sesame and soy sauce.
Many of us live near areas where we can find yellow rocket, bee balm, amaranth and stinging nettle, but we are more comfortable shopping at farmers markets for our salad greens. Kale is plentiful, and here's a way to add a little zing to the flavor.
In Wild About Greens, Nava Atlas says massaged kale salads are a huge trend, fueled by the raw-food movement. Atlas likes to use common curly kale for this technique.
First, strip the leaves from the stems. If you want to use the stems, slice them very thinly and set them aside. Cut the kale into ribbons or bite-size pieces and give them a good rinse. Before massaging the kale, let the leaves dry, either by spreading them on a clean kitchen towel and letting them air-dry, blotting them between layers of paper towel or drying them in a salad spinner. The cut kale does not need to be perfectly dry, but you don't want moisture clinging to the leaves. Transfer them to a large bowl and massage the leaves using one of these three methods.
■ Sprinkle ½ to 1 teaspoon sea salt onto kale. Massage it into the leaves for 1 to 2 minutes, until they soften and turn bright green.
■ Rub a small amount of olive oil onto your palms and massage leaves for 30 to 60 seconds, until they turn bright green and soften.
■ Divide a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice onto the greens and massage them for 30 seconds to a minute, until they turn bright green and soften.
Once the kale is prepared, there's no limit to the kinds of salads you may create with them, Atlas said. Even if you don't use the entire bunch of kale as the main green in a salad, you can use this technique for just a few leaves and add them to green salads and to grain or pasta salads. Add some massaged kale to roasted vegetables once they've cooled (roots, eggplant, squashes) and dress with a vinaigrette. Use massaged kale in place of all or some of the lettuce in a Greek-style salad, with kalamata olives, stuffed grape leaves (cut in half) or marinated artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Add these salad recipes to your summer menu.
Kale salad with dried fruit and nuts
8 to 12 ounces kale, preferably curly green
2⁄3 cup dried fruit of your choice — raisins, cranberries, cherries, chopped apricots
½ cup crushed toasted cashews, pecans or walnuts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ to 1 lemon, to taste
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Use one of the three techniques for massaging kale as listed above. Stir in remaining ingredients, and serve at once.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
From Wild About Greens
Wisteria flowers and French beans
8 ounces green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups wisteria flowers (from 2 to 3 bunches)
1 cup ricotta cheese, optional
Have ready a bowl of ice water. In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add beans, and cook about 4 minutes, or until bright green but still crunchy. Drain beans and transfer to ice water to cool. Drain well.
In a medium salad bowl, combine beans, shallot, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Mix in wisteria flowers and serve, topping each serving with a dollop of ricotta cheese, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.
From Foraged Flavor
If you like more traditional salads, here's a recipe from cookbook author Elizabeth Karmel. Any type of greens would work with this.
1 package Weber Just Add Juice lemon-pepper marinade mix
½ cup fresh lemon juice
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 heads Boston, butter or other baby lettuce, washed and dried
8 slices thick-cut smoked pepper bacon, diced and cooked
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into quarters or halves, depending on size
Coarse sea salt
For lemon-pepper vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper marinade mix
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1⁄3 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
2⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
To make salad: Combine marinade mix (reserving 1 teaspoon for vinaigrette) and lemon juice in large non- reactive bowl, glass 13- by 9-inch casserole or large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, turning to coat. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
Preheat grill. Wash and dry lettuce leaves; set aside.
Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Brush chicken with oil, and season with pinch of salt. Place directly on cooking grate over direct medium heat. Grill 15 to 20 minutes or until completely cooked through, turning once halfway through grilling. Let cool to room temperature. When cool, slice chicken on the diagonal and set aside.
To assemble salad, divide lettuce among four plates. Add bacon, cherry tomatoes and chicken slices. Top with a drizzle of vinaigrette and a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately.
To make vinaigrette: Whisk together 1 teaspoon of reserved marinade mix, mustard and wine. Slowly whisk in olive oil, making sure it is emulsified before adding more oil.
From Weber Sauces & Seasonings
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @Flavorsofky. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.