March 22, 2012
salad

Photo by Judith Hausman

Countless salad options are available during springtime.

The oaks and maples redden up, the willows get yellow and the forsythia burst. Crocus and snowbells catch the eye with color, and in this oddly warm year, first salads are in the bowl in March in the Hudson Valley. The unheated hoop houses are filled with mounds of wintered-over spinach, new lettuce and pretty claytonia, with its translucent stems and spade-shaped leaves.

These “purist” green salads invigorate and are a cause for celebration, even with little else that’s newly grown to add to them. Last night we threw in a few hazelnuts, a few chickpeas and a handful of grated hard cheese before bathing the soft greens in very good olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Great-tasting mushrooms can sometimes help us wait patiently for other local toss-ins to become available, as well. Still, simple, green salads are such a welcome relief and such a harbinger of what’s to come that we stay pretty satisfied with them until the peas and beet greens show up.

Three parts good olive oil, one part good vinegar, and salt and pepper are just about enough to dress these salads. A tablespoon of mustard will help emulsify the two; that is, keep the oil and vinegar from separating. Experiment with hazelnut oil, sherry vinegar and whole-grain mustard, too. However, if you want to try something different, these two salad dressings are easy and delicious. They also make use of pantry items that serve you well in these spring weeks; you can transition to using larger amounts of fresh, chopped herbs when they are available homegrown.

Red Pepper Dressing


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 jarred, roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 3/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and thyme
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste


PREPARATION

Whizz all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Keeps in the fridge for two to three weeks.

Variation: Substitute two canned, plum tomatoes, one large shallot for the garlic and red-wine vinegar for the balsamic.

Sesame Dressing


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

PREPARATION

Whizz all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add more water or olive oil to thin, if desired. Keeps in the fridge for two to three weeks.

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