Spring Salad & The Arte of the Salat

Spring is here! Everything is lush and green, the air is crisp and ambrosial with the scent of lilacs and fresh spring rains. This is the time of year when we awaken from our sluggish winter rest, open the windows, sweep the floors, and make ourselves a spring salad. Tender lettuces, crunchy light vegetables, and a scattering of minced herbs and edible weeds, coated in oil and vinegar, and adorned with edible flowers. The Spring Salad is an excellent way to not only provide your body with a cleansing tonic, but to also hone your kitchen witchery skills, which includes using seasonal ingredients in an intuitive alchemy of sorts, combined with a celebration of the senses. Food should not only taste good, but in order to be true medicine for the soul, it should also be a total sensory experience. This salad is formulated to taste good, but also keeps in mind the scent of the ingredients, texture as you bite into it, and visual delight of glowing greens and bright, colorful flowers and vegetables. Not to mention the sensory experience of gathering your ingredients!

Let’s go to the garden with our shears and a large bowl – first we head to the box garden, filled with sprouting lettuces. The lettuces will constitute the majority of the salad, so we really want to the fill the bowl with them. Clip them off by the handful and toss them in! In the next box over, we can pull a few radishes – this will provide a light, crunchy addition. After that, we head to the herb garden, just outside the kitchen. Pots of all shapes and sizes, filled with a variety of vibrant herbs. Pick your favorite ones – chives are always good, and I think I’ll add a bit of mint, oregano, and lemon balm too. For the herbs we just need a large handful. Finally, it’s time to forage for some wild greens and flowers to add to our salad. The bright pops of yellow are easy to spot, scattered across the yard – dandelion! We can get a handful of dandelion flowers and leaves. Now lets squint our eyes and look closer in the shady spots around the trees – there they are! Wild violets – lets just get a few flowers and leaves from those as well. Ah, and I see one more wild edible growing in the dappled shade – perhaps my favorite of all – chickweed! Let’s clip away a large handful of that – it’s a fantastic addition to sandwiches as well. Oh my goodness, just look at this abundance of greens and flowers. The bees are buzzing, the sun is shining – it’s time to head back in and make our salad.

This Spring Salad “recipe” is inspired by a medieval salad recipe taken from Forme of Curye, written ab. 1390 A.D. :

Original Recipe:

Salat

Take parsel, sawge, garlec, chybollus, oynons, lek, borage, myntes, porrettes, fenels and towne cressis rewe rosmarye, purslary, lauen and waische hem clene pyke hem  pluk hem small wiþ þyne hond and mynge hem wel wiþ rawe oyle. lay on vyneger and salt and surve hem forth.

Translation:

Salad

Take parsley, sage, garlic, chives, onions, leek, borage, mint, scallion, fennel and nasturtium, rue, rosemary, purslane, rinse and wash them clean pick them pluck them small with thine hand and mingle them well with raw oil lay on vinegar and salt and serve them forth.

Talk about flavors! While this recipe is made primarily of herbs (something I would like to try recreating some day, I’m sure it has a much more medicinal flavor), I formulated this recipe to be made primarily with lettuces, and then finely chopped herbs intermingled. The thing with herbs is that they contain much higher amounts of essential oils (this is also why they smell so good when you chop them) – so they make for stronger flavors which I feel would overpower the taste senses. Instead, I prefer to have the herbs and wild greens provide a subtler yet complex flavor profile, and the majority of the salad consist of lush, fresh garden lettuces.

For intuitive cooking, I like to give ratios rather than measurements – and of course you can change them up as you see fit!

Spring Salad (makes one generous serving):

Lettuce greens – this should be the majority of the salad, let’s say 3/4 of the bowl

Crunchy vegetable, thinly sliced – small handful

Suggestions:

  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Jicama
  • Carrot
  • Fennel
  • Apple (not a vegetable but is quite delicious in this salad!)

Herbs, minced – generous handful

Suggestions:

  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon balm
  • Sage

Wild greens and flowers, minced (can leave flowers whole to sprinkle on top) – one handful

Suggestions (always use at least three sources to ID wild edibles):

  • Dandelion
  • Violets
  • Plantain
  • Cleavers
  • Chickweed
  • Red clover
  • Borage
  • Nasturtium
  • Purslane
  • Miners lettuce

For the salad dressing:

Garlic-infused olive oil —

  1. Peel 4-5 garlic cloves, smash each clove with the broad side of your kitchen knife
  2. Add these to a 16 oz glass bottle or jar
  3. Fill bottle/jar with good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  4. Store in a cool dark cupboard

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and vinegar (ratio of oil to vinegar should be about 3:1) and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk with a fork until dressing turns opaque (this is when it has emulsified).

Okay, ingredients are prepared, let’s make this salad!

  1. Add thinly sliced crunchy vegetable, and minced herbs and wild greens to the bowl of lettuce.
  2. Lightly drizzle dressing, and toss with your hands until everything is well combined and lightly coated with oil. Taste a piece of lettuce, add more salt and pepper or dressing as needed. If the greens become limp, it’s because you’ve added too much dressing – add a bit more lettuce to lighten it up. As long as you drizzle and mix a bit at time, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. Place edible flowers artfully on top, squeeze of bit of lemon juice over everything, and voila! Spring salad is done. Bon appetit.

Did you try this recipe? Or do you have your own favorite salad recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Blessed be,

S.