As we look forward to our yearly Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit, which perfectly coincides with the start of spring, we naturally (and typically!) are finding ourselves hungry.
Spring is a food-lover’s best season—seconded only by Thanksgiving, of course—with a seemingly endless bounty of vibrant colors and flavors at the local market. Asparagus and fava beans, fresh berries for our warm-climate friends, and ramps and morels where it’s still cool.
Sometimes such great variety can become overwhelming! When everything is good, how do you choose, and then how do you decide what to cook? Luckily, there is an easy answer for an over-abundance of perfectly ripe fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and it’s one you already know well.
A salad is more than lettuce + stuff, and to be perfectly honest, the lines between what is a salad and what is a bowl of ingredients is pretty blurry. In very generous terms, a salad is really just a mix of ingredients, cooked and/or raw, joined together by a dressing or sauce. Does this mean virtually anything can be a salad? Exactly.
If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your spring produce, our best tip is to cook each vegetable and fruit the way it tastes best to you. That means if you have vibrant green asparagus, you may choose to grill it. For tender green peas, maybe just a quick blanch in hot water. Radishes may stay raw or can be poached in butter. Whichever method you choose, cook the vegetables until they are still tender-crisp. That means just barely cooked with still a little bite. And be sure to make enough that you can mix and match for lunches or dinners all week!
Once you have each ingredient stowed away in your refrigerator in its most perfect version of itself, the salad just… happens. Mix an assortment of fruits and veggies with cooked quinoa, soaked rice noodles, diced avocado, or peppery arugula. Add olives, roasted nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, handfuls of herbs, or even your favorite everything-bagel seasoning mix. Top with a perfectly poached egg or flaked oil-poached tuna for a flexitarian vibe.
The variety in cooking methods will mean a variety of textures and flavor profiles that will make any combination feel special and unique. No boring salads for you!
For dressing, think beyond a classic vinaigrette. There are lots of single-ingredient dressings that are not just simple, but flavorful enough to balance out a dish without overwhelming delicate veggies and fruits. Rich and creamy sesame tahini, tart pomegranate molasses, chile crisp, prepared basil pesto, salsa, or even just an infused herb-oil with a sprinkle of coarse salt can all tie together your ingredients into a cohesive meal or side dish.