…from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? I make a lot of salads and my salads have lots of ingredients with a multitude of textures and flavors. The more “orts,” the better (orts are ingredients and particulate added to salads—my word, nothing you’ll find in the dictionary). But it’s not only the abundant ingredients that add so much to the salad, but the lettuce choices as well. We recently worked on a salad project where the client was vertically growing lots of different lettuces—pretty exciting stuff.
If you want to enrich your salad IQ read on and discover just how healthful, flavorful and enticing salads can be… just as any other dish on your table. It all starts with the “greens” (though not all lettuce varieties are green) and your family will love you for it.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the many lettuces you might want to bring to your table: Purple Radicchio… it’s a feast for both the eyes and the palate. Kale… whether you love it or hate it, Kale boasts a whopping 685% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K. Arugula's peppery bite is perfect when paired with sweet ingredients like fennel and orange. Mâche, also known as lamb's lettuce or corn salad, is an under-rated green that offers a tender texture and nutty flavor. Baby Spinach delivers on flavor, with an earthy aroma that can even tend towards a slight sweetness. A perennial favorite for Caesar Salad and Cobb Salad, Romaine also plays well with bacon. Watercress (the forgotten green) pairs wonderfully with sweet fennel, but it also stands up to hotter flavors like pepper flakes. Iceberg has a time and a place… who doesn't love a crispy bacon and blue cheese wedge? Each of our selected greens boast their own unique nutritional makeup, flavor, and texture, to make your salads as delicious as they are healthful.
Purple radicchio is a close relative of chicory and endive; it has just 10 calories per cup and is high in vitamin K. It boasts a pleasant bitter bite, which stands up wonderfully to musty crumbled blue cheese and a zingy mustard dressing in this Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Chicory Salad. Grilling the radicchio before assembling a salad brings out even more of its natural sweetness, as it does in a Grilled Radicchio and Plum Salad, where it's paired with sharp goat cheese and sweet aged balsamic.
Kale is member of the brassica family. This sturdy leafy green has a sweet flavor reminiscent of cabbage or Brussels sprouts, but its ancestry also means that it can be a bit tough when consumed raw. You can fix that by removing the thickest outer ribs of kale leaves; then cut it into small, bite-sized pieces. Take a few seconds to actually massage the dressing into the kale for at least a minute, which will help soften it and make it easier to chew and digest. The slightly bitter green kale pairs with sweet persimmon, apple and orange or with feta cheese, diced apple, currants and toasted pine or pistachio nuts. Make a creamy Mediterranean salad with Greek yogurt dressing topped with roasted, crunchy sunflower seeds.
Arugula (one of my favorites)
In the U.K. Arugula is referred to as Rocket. This peppery green may not be as rich in vitamins and minerals as some of the other greens, but it makes up for it in great flavor and lower-calories (only five per cup). Arugula's zippy bite is perfect when paired with sweeter ingredients like fennel and orange or fig, pine nuts, and Parmesan with a honey-balsamic dressing. Arugula is great when mixed with other greens and it is also a phenomenal base for larger meal salads like grilled chicken, shrimp or barbecued sliced steak.
This lettuce is often referred to as lamb's lettuce or corn salad, is an under-rated, little know green that offers a tender texture and almost nutty flavor. It also boasts three times as much vitamin C as most lettuces. This green is more uncommon than some on this list, but seek it out at farmers' markets, and you'll be rewarded by its delicate flavor. It goes well with purple arugula, roasted beets, peaches and goat cheese. If you can find it, use it in place of baby spinach.
Popeye's favorite green is a great choice for more reasons than one. Spinach contains hefty amounts of iron and protein, not to mention plenty of magnesium, potassium, calcium and folate. In addition to its high mineral content, spinach also delivers on flavor, with an earthy aroma that can even tend towards a slight sweetness, particularly when young. Enjoy it with strawberries, almonds, and poppy seeds or pair it with hot bacon and chopped hard-cooked eggs for a wonderful warm Wilted Spinach Salad (see recipe below).
STOP! Don’t throw those beet leaves away when you buy a bunch of beets at the market. Beet greens are rich in both potassium and magnesium, and these hardy greens are delicious raw or cooked. Consider pairing them with roasted beets in a warm salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Use them in place of greens like kale or Swiss chard.
Crisp romaine lettuce is loaded with minerals like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium. While it doesn't boast much flavor of its own, this lettuce is a blank canvas and remains a fan favorite thanks to its crisp texture and ability to carry a wide variety of creamier dressings. It’s a perennial favorite for a Caesar Salad and Chopped Cobb Salads. At Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville we created a beautiful main dish salad with lightly grilled romaine, bacon, sieved egg and a Champagne vinaigrette dressing.
Bitter Belgian endive isn't just low in calories, it's also high in potassium, folate, fiber and flavonoid kaempferol, which some studies have shown may inhibit cancer. Its bitter notes stand up equally well to sweet and piquant flavors, making it the ideal choice to pair with asparagus, orange, or an apple, cranberry, funky blue cheese plate. Its shape also makes for fun presentation as endive boats can be filled with blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts.
Watercress salads were most popular in the 1950s and ‘60s. It is rich in vitamins A and C. It also has excellent antioxidant benefits. It's a member of the Brassicaceae family, with cousins like arugula, horseradish, and wasabi, so it boasts a light peppery flavor. Watercress pairs wonderfully with sweet fennel but it also stands up to hotter flavors like pepper flakes and hot sauce to create a spicy watercress salad topped with Buffalo chicken tenders.
You might not think of Brussels sprouts as a salad green, but a vegetable best served cooked. These little crucifers are wonderful in salads, too. Like other members of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts are rich in sulforaphane, a phytochemical widely recognized as an anti-cancer compound. Brussels sprouts are also rich in fiber and vitamin C. Brussels Sprouts salads are best served shredded or thinly sliced on a mandolin and paired with sweeter flavors like dried cranberries or cherries and apples, almonds and sunflower seeds, all of which bring out their natural nuttiness. But Brussels sprouts can also stand up to richer flavors served like a Caesar Salad with bacon, Parmesan, and a mayo or yogurt-based dressing.
Lightly Wilted Spinach Salad
This healthy salad was a Restaurant Row standard in Los Angeles at Steers for Steaks. It just takes about 9 minutes from start to finish. If you want a vegan salad substitute EVOO in place of the bacon and bacon fat.
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
3 slices thin cut bacon (reserve 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat)
2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat (from above)
3 tablespoons minced garlic
4 to 5 cups triple washed spinach, stems removed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
ChefSecret: While Iceberg Lettuce has a nice crisp, long-lasting texture, it has the least nutritional value of almost all other lettuces.
Quip of the Day: “A man goes to the doctor with lettuce in his ear. The doctor said, "so sorry, it looks like it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Do you have a question or comment? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. All recipes and cooking tips are posted on our website https://www.perspectives-la.com/covid-19-survival-guide.
To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America.
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©Perspectives/The Consulting Group, LLC, 2022
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