|Salad Step One: Greens
Lately, I've been making salads with the freshest greens I can find: fresh-picked weeds from my yard. Yep, you read that right. Mostly I've been going for dandelion greens and chickweed. Before long, in the place I just moved out of, I would have had plenty of lettuce to harvest from my garden too. But in the meantime, the weeds were the first thing to come up so I was eating them.
If you want to eat your weeds - or your neighbor's weeds - just try to pick something that you know hasn't been sprayed with pesticides or peed on by a dog. And go for a plant you recognize and know is edible like dandelion. I'm not advocating anyone make a burmudagrass or mystery weed salad!
Without any good weeds to choose from, today I went to the farmers' market and picked up a bag of fresh-picked mixed greens.
(Another salad green I like is kale, but that's a different type of salad entirely. I chop it up and toss it with sea salt, olive oil, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add red pepper flakes if you like them.)
Step Two: Dressing
Because I'm on a virtuous kick of aspiring to eat salad a lot, I decided to make a bunch of dressing and keep it in the fridge. I always use basically the same recipe but of course you can vary it. I got the idea from a local restaurant that serves a green salad with fresh mint and a mustard vinaigrette.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- White wine vinegar
- Stone ground mustard
- Whatever herbs I can get my hands on
Mix approximately equal amounts of the first three ingredients. Then taste it and add more of whatever you think it needs. I probably put in more olive oil than the other ingredients. Then add a bit of honey. Again, taste it and add more to taste.
I use olive oil because I like the flavor, but you could also use other oils, like flax or avocado. If you use flax, beware that it is highly perishable. If you make a dressing with flax and you don't eat it all immediately, store it in a tinted container in the fridge.
Last, chop of whatever herbs you've got and add them. I've usually got rosemary, oregano, and thyme on hand, but I've also added basil, parsley, and dill. You can add mint as well, but I prefer to add whole mint leaves to the salad so that you get big bursts of mint all at once while you eat.
Voila! Gourmet homemade salad dressing, and it was easy. Now, you too can make salad for your asshole roommates and have them proclaim it the best salad they've ever eaten.
Step Three (Optional): Other Stuff
I'm not big on putting other stuff in my salad, but there are a few things I like. I like pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, and avocado the most. I guess it's a good thing I live in California.
I wouldn't say no to pecans and goat cheese either. Petals of edible flowers are also pretty and they impress your guests, but I'm not a big fan of the flavor of many of them. I'd go with dandelion and calendula as the most tasty, but nasturtiums are often the most available. (They tend to be peppery - the name nasturtium comes from Latin for "nose twister.")
But as long as I'm not your dinner guest, you don't need your salad to please me. So add whatever you like to it.
Tonight, as I made up a bunch of dressing to keep in the fridge, I had a great idea. Every time I make dressing, I have to go hunting down herbs. Why don't I save time by getting a big bunch of herbs now and making herbed vinegar? Then next time I want salad dressing, I can skip all of the harvesting and chopping that goes with it!
To make herbed vinegar - as you might have guessed - you need herbs and vinegar. You fill a jar part way or entirely with herbs, cover them in vinegar, and then wait until the vinegar takes on the flavor of the herbs. Some recipes call for waiting two weeks, some say six weeks. Some say to shake the jar every day (in which case, make sure the jar's lid is not metal), and others don't. Some recipes say to store it in the fridge, and almost all say that you should not store it in direct sunlight.
One recipe I saw online recommended filling a jar one-third full with stronger tasting herbs, or entirely full with mild tasting ones. I decided to do both.
First, I went to my old garden at my ex's house and got a bunch of herbs:
Then I gently washed and patted dry the strong-tasting herbs, coarsely chopped them, and filled the jar one-third full with them. I used thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, and garlic.
Thyme. The leaves are so small that I left them on the stem.
Rosemary. I guess I'm only going half way to Scarborough Fair, because I don't have any parsley or sage.
Garlic. I went with three cloves.
A blurry picture of oregano. It's not my favorite herb (thyme probably is) but it tastes good here when mixed up with everything else.
Mint. The devious herb that takes over your garden. This guy needed some pruning so I grabbed a bit of it to use here.
Next, I grabbed a few mild-tasting herbs, chickweed and dandelion, and filled the rest of the jar with those. I used those more for their vitamins than their flavor. Because I am living in a sad, new, weed-free place, I had to used dried dandelion leaves instead of fresh.
Last, I poured the vinegar over my herbs and screwed on the lid. It's a metal lid, which is bad because the vinegar will corrode it. That means my homework in the next few days is finding a different, better lid. I'll probably go with a Tattler plastic BPA-free reusable canning lid. Another solution is using a pretty glass bottle with a cork - but I think that's a better idea once the herb flavors are already in the vinegar. It will be a lot easier to get the herbs out of a fat mason jar than a skinny bottle opening.
Voila! I should probably stick a label on here that says what's in it and the date I put it together so that several weeks from now I'll now when it's done.
For now, I stuck the jar in my cabinet next to my kombucha-to-be, so they can keep one another company as they brew. I'll use this vinegar next time I make salad dressing.
UPDATE: I just had a funny realization. In addition to using this vinegar in salad dressings, it would also work medicinally as a compress or in the bath to treat sore muscles. Vinegar helps draw out the lactic acid, from what I've read, and thyme, chickweed, and rosemary are all great for sore muscles.