The fruits of the harvest are always bursting with crispness and flavor, reminding us of the freshness of the season. Here’s a quick guide to building a delicious, in-season salad from the bottom to the top. Read our tips, then tell us your favorite way to dress up greens.
Begin With Green: If you are bored with baby spinach and salad greens, mix it up with escarole, endive, dandelion greens, baby beet greens, kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, watercress, radicchio or mache.
Add Some Color: Toss in sliced radishes, snap peas, artichokes, asparagus, baby portabellas, broccoli, shallots, spring onions (scallions) or leeks.
Fruit it Up! Depending on where you live, citrus fruits might still be in season! There’s still time to add some tang to your salad by adding fresh oranges, tangerines, grapefruits or fresh squeezed lemon juice. Toward the end of spring, berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries begin to ripen. These antioxidant-rich fruits will be a sweet addition to any savory salad.
Add Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs are here with the spring and can add flavor and pizzazz to when mixed in with any salad greens (like in Food Network Magazine‘s cilantro- and parsley-studded salad). Toss in sprigs of parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, dill or basil to give your salad some extra spice. Remember, a little goes a long way!
Can’t Forget the Crunch: Add a small handful of your favorite nut for additional protein and heart healthy fats. If possible, go for raw and unsalted nuts to cut back on added oils and sodium. Pecans, sliced almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pistachios are great additions to any spring salad. Mung bean, alfalfa and broccoli sprouts are also in season and are a great way to add crunch (and vitamin C) to your salad!
Pack on the Protein: Make your salad a complete meal with a protein-rich topping. Add a hard-boiled, poached or fried egg and leave the drippy yolk to act as a natural dressing. Or crumble a little of a flavorful cheese like ricotta salata, shaved parmesan, gorgonzola or goat cheese on top for added flavor and calcium. Seafood and shellfish pair well with citrus, and meats like prosciutto and pancetta crisp up nicely and crumble as a perfectly salty topping to finish your masterpiece. Cooked beans such as garbanzo, cannellini, fava or black beans are also a great addition for vegan or vegetarian salads.
Garnish: Let edible flowers be the finishing touch to your spring masterpiece. Pansies, bachelor’s buttons, carnations, chive blossoms and nasturtiums are all beautiful and blossoming this spring! Just make sure the flowers are safe to eat before adding them to the top of your salad!
A Few Mix-and-Match Salad Combos to Try:
• Arugula or watercress, tangerines, shallots, goat milk cheese and sliced almonds
• Mixed baby greens, fresh strawberries, gorgonzola cheese and toasted pecans
• Baby spinach, artichokes, tuna, sauteed mushrooms and kalamata olives
Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. Leslie Peck also contributed to this article.
What’s your favorite market-fresh salad combo? Tell us in the comments below.