If you have a CSA share, a garden, or both (if you’ve lost your mind like me), you may be eyeballing your harvest and asking yourself, “What the hell am I going to do with all this lettuce?!” Even though just three short months ago we dreamed of the tender green leaves of arugula, spinach, romaine, and bibb, we’re now contemplating having salad for breakfast and shoving heads off on friends.
Having now forked my way through the bounty of summer farm share lettuce AND homegrown mesclun/arugula for four years – conveniently forgetting the tidal wave of CSA greens and planting them in the garden each season anyway – I’d like to share some tips to keep the salad bowl interesting.
1. Shop with salads in mind.
Mid-May (or now), take one, big grocery store trip to grab the shelf-stable and frozen ingredients you’ll need to make creative salads for a few weeks. Then you’ll be prepared to throw something together when more lettuce descends (because you know it will), and you’ll be in good shape later in the season to tackle onslaughts of other veggies, too. Stock up on things like:
• Canned & jarred accoutrements – olives, beans, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, hearts of palm, pepperocini, pickled beets, tuna, pineapple, mandarin oranges
• Dressings – or a bunch of interesting oils and vinegars to make your own
• Bulk and shelf-stable toppings – nuts, croutons, those fried Chinese noodle things, dried cranberries
• Frozen (or freezable) proteins – chicken breasts, steak, shrimp, bacon, salmon, shelled edamame
• Storage produce – onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, shallots
Then, each time you shop, think about picking up the fresh stuff like cheeses, eggs, and other veggies.
2. Don’t dump the same stuff on top of your salad every day.
Cucumber, onion, tomato, carrot, chicken. Repeat. And then again. By salad #4 you’ll be ready to adopt a rabbit to eat all the lettuce. Instead, make a point to craft a distinct salad each time and they seriously won’t get old. Keep reading for ideas.
3. Re-visit the classics.
• Nicoise – bib or other tender lettuce, boiled new potatoes, seared tuna, blanched green beans, nicoise olives, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, dijon vinaigrette
• Caesar – romaine, croutons, maybe grilled chicken, caesar dressing
• Greek – greens, feta, kalamata olives, red onion, tomato, cucumber, pepperocini, greek dressing
• Chef – greens, hard-boiled eggs, strips of deli meat and cheese (swiss, american, ham, salami), tomato, cucumber, onion, your choice of dressing
• Cobb – greens, avacado, bacon, tomato, hard-boiled egg, blue cheese, chicken, vinaigrette
4. Steal ideas from restaurants.
Especially ones that feature seasonal ingredients. There are people there whose job it is to invent new and interesting salads; try a riff on their creativity at home – but do give credit if you’re serving guests. Some examples:
• (don’t laugh) Chili’s
Feel free to add more restaurant or recipe links in the comments section! Now go forth and get your greens on.