The Edgy Veggie

Salads deserve better than bagged greens and bottled dressings

Harmonious: Not a one-note salad.
Harmonious: Not a one-note salad. For the Miami Herald

For May, National Salad Month, we pay tribute to my maternal grandfather, who so hated single-note salads, he’d make a public scene. This forced my proper Bostonian grandmother to discreetly slip a tomato in her purse when they dined out.

She wouldn’t have to carry contraband with the new, whimsical rake-and-hoe garden salad at Barton G. (1427 West Ave.) in South Beach. It comprises seasonal, local greens from mache to mizuna plus shaved fennel, carrots, beets and so much more. The restaurant serves it in a miniature wheelbarrow (and charges a major $18).

More modestly priced yet equally delicious is the wild mushroom salad ($9.95) at Yuga (357 Alcazar Ave.) in Coral Gables. This longtime funghi favorite features a multitude of meaty shiitakes and skinny white enoki piled atop field greens, drizzled with addictive cilantro-ginger dressing.

Is your homemade salad ho-hum? Don’t make the spirit of my grandfather come after you. Lose the supermarket bag o’ greens. Sparkling salads start with fresh farmers market greens and never end. Add:

▪ Local, seasonal everything — mango, corn, avocado, showstopping watermelon radishes, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes.

▪ Texture — with meltingly tender roasted mushrooms or eggplant, creamy white beans, chewy whole grains like barley, shaved fennel, diced celery, toasted almonds and more to build dimension.

▪ Crunch — toasted nuts, seeds or roasted chickpeas add crunch. When all else fails, top salad with thinly sliced crostini or crumbled toasted tortillas (croutons are ’80s).

▪ Protein — this not a synonym for meat. Plant-based protein like beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tofu and tempeh take salad from slight to significant. Lacto-ovo? Top salads with grated cheese or (very French) a perfectly poached egg — the runny yolk serves as dressing.

Subtract: bottled dressing. Explore bronze and buttery pumpkin seed oil, nutty green hemp seed oil or tahini (sesame seed paste) for lusciousness. Swap balsamic for mild, fruity cider vinegar, sweet Asian mirin, fragrant sherry vinegar. Add a spoonful of miso or mustard, a squeeze of fresh citrus and a blizzard of your favorite fresh chopped herbs.

Salad comes from the Latin word meaning salted. Finish salad with a light sprinkle of sea salt for flavor pop. Don’t forget salty pickles, olives capers and … Bacos. They’re pig-free and plant-based.

For more inspiration, check out Terry Home Romero’s Salad Samurai. Now get to it. It’s National Salad Month and the spirit of my grandfather is watching.

Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.” On Twitter: @edgyveggie1.

Spring Salad with Mustard and Dill

I know people like easy. But sometimes a few extra steps really ups your culinary game. This salad has it all going on from texture to looks and came about organically, all from what came in my weekly farm share (thanks to Bee Heaven Farm CSA for another outstanding season). Serves 4 to 6.

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons sherry or cider vinegar

1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup

2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped, plus additional for garnish, if desired

1 zucchini, sliced into thin discs

1 medium onion, sliced into half moons

1 red pepper, sliced into slim strips

4 to 5 cups loosely packed tender fresh greens — arugula, kale, lettuce, whatever is fresh from your local farmer

1 watermelon radish or a handful of French breakfast radishes, sliced thin (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, Dijon mustard, sherry or cider vinegar and agave or maple syrup until ingredients emulsify, about a minute. Add chopped dill and give another quick whisk. Set aside. Spread sliced zucchini, onion and red pepper on the baking sheet, taking care not to crowd the vegetables. Brush generously with the dressing, using about half. Reserve the remainder for serving.

Roast vegetables for about 15 minutes. Give them a flip and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’re tender, and are starting to crisp at the edges. Rmove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes to cool.

Spread greens on a platter. Gently ay the roasted vegetables on top. Sprinkle sliced radishes and chopped almonds over all, plus the additional chopped dill for garnish, if you like, and drizzle the the remaining dressing on top.

Source: Ellen Kanner.