From Our Kitchen: Spring Greens

Warm days find us craving the cool comforts of a crisp, green salad. Served as a side dish or a main course for a super-quick supper, salads are versatile enough to enjoy every day.
Mary Allen Perry

To keep lettuce fresh all week, wash and dry thoroughly before refrigerating. Loosely wrap the leaves in paper towels, and place in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and store in the vegetable crisper. If the towels become damp during the week, replace with dry ones.

Transporting salads for meals on the go isn't a problem when they're tucked into pita pockets. Sliced turkey, sliced pears, crumbled blue cheese, and toasted pecans turn a package of gourmet greens and a handful of alfalfa sprouts into a take-along treat. Opt for wrapping these hearty sandwiches in wax paper rather than plastic wrap to prevent the bread from absorbing excess moisture.

Hot Toppers
Creative toppings can transform a simple salad into something special. Bake a pan of breaded chicken pieces, or roast those extra vegetables lying around in the crisper. Strips of leftover egg roll and wonton wrappers fry up in seconds, and they pair perfectly with the new Asian-flavored salad dressings.

 

For a tasty twist on traditional croutons, cut leftover cornbread or biscuits into 3/4-inch cubes. Drizzle with a little olive oil or melted butter, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

Quick-cooking and low in fat, turkey tenderloins are always a favorite and are a great addition to a salad. They're every bit as easy to prepare as pork tenderloin. Just season as desired, and grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) for 25 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion reads 170°. Remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Best Dressed
Flavored oils and vinegars offer endless possibilities for creating your own salad dressing. The ratio for a classic vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar or fresh lemon juice, but the proportions can be adjusted according to taste. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Substitute fruit preserves or jam for a portion of the oil. Fresh herbs and aromatics, such as minced shallots or garlic, and fresh ginger are also great options.
  • Whisking in a little mustard will emulsify the mixture and will help prevent the oil and vinegar from separating. Just remember to always add the oil after all the other ingredients have been mixed together.
  • Nut oils can vary in strength and richness. You may want to combine them with a little olive oil when preparing a vinaigrette. To ensure freshness, look for a production date on the label, and refrigerate after opening.
  • White balsamic vinegar has the same sweet taste as the traditional brown balsamic vinegar, but it can be added to foods without discoloring them.
  • A terrific way to flavor and tenderize less expensive cuts of meat, vinaigrettes also make a memorable marinade.

"From Our Kitchen: Spring Greens" is from the March 2006 issue of Southern Living.