Ahh, we’re enjoying more variety from the garden every day! In the past few weeks we’ve enjoyed our first fennel, kohlrabi, beets, baby carrots, cucumbers, basil, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, edible flowers… the list grows and grows. With such a large variety of fresh crunchy delicious items, I need to be increasingly creative to turn the day’s harvest into a meal. My solution: “invent your own salad!”
Salads come in all shapes, sizes, and mixtures. They’re flexible, and can include almost anything your garden grows. They can be leafy and green, or crunchy with rainbow colors. Here are the things I keep in mind when inventing a salad.
- Don’t add EVERYTHING. Feature 3-6 different items so that each flavor isn’t lost in the mix.
- Start by thinking about what you have. Then decide what other items might taste good with that flavor.
- Consider briefly blanching (and then quickly cooling) certain items like broccoli, green beans, or beets before adding them into a salad along with raw veggies. This brings our their sweetness and can make them easier to digest.
- Grow edible flowers. They’re fun to eat, attract pollinators to your garden, and add color to your plate!
- Pair veggie flavors with dressings. I love beets with balsamic vinegar, asparagus or peas with creamy dijon dressing, basil and tomatoes with oil and vinegar, and cucumbers with soy or miso dressing. Taste test and discover your favorite combinations.
- When concocting a dressing, follow this simple equation: sour + flavor + salt + fat. For example, balsamic vinegar + garlic + salt + olive oil. Or lemon juice + garlic + mustard + salt + olive oil. Make sure to include some fat in your dressings so that you can absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from your veggies. And of course, always take time to adjust to taste.
- Do you naturally ferment or pickle veggies? Try using your leftover brine as a starting point for your next salad dressing.
- Love it? Write it down! This can be especially fun with kids. They can invent their own recipes and collect recipe cards in their own recipe box. Salads are very flexible, so they’re a great place to start.
Here’s a recent crunchy salad we enjoyed, inspired by the recent arrival of early stem and root crops from the garden:
- Cut several carrots, 1 beet, and 1 kohlrabi into match stick sized pieces
- Finely chop up several fennel fronds
- Add 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, 1/4 c. olive oil, a splash of maple syrup, and a dash of salt
- Mix everything together and adjust to taste
- Crumble feta cheese on top