Herb-Powered Salads

No one said that salads had to be mostly lettuce, but that ‘s the message I somehow absorbed during my life as a culinary being….received wisdom that I’ve never really much challenged. Oh, I’ve wandered a bit into cabbage salads and endive salads, but the idea is pretty much the same: something large and leafy does the heavy lifting for the dish, while other plants like herbs serve as accents. But the other day I went down the grow room, found little lettuce but lots of herbs and pea shoots, and threw caution to the wind, deciding there and then those ingredients would make up my salad for the night. I suppose it was a democratizing moment in my vision of what a salad could be; I demoted lettuce and raised up herbs and shoots and created something much more flavorful and colorful than I had ever eaten. No one ingredient dominated this salad, and the result was an absolute playground of flavors and textures.

Salad herbs du jour….all from the grow room (clockwise beginning at bottom left): Gigante di Italia parsley, Wild Magic basil, Vertissimo chervil, Feisty tendril pea, Red Kingdom mustard,  and, center, Mrs. Burns’s Lemon Basil.  See any lettuce there?  I don’t.  Didn’t need it.  The herbs carried the day!


My lineup was thus:
1. Parsley….always a favorite for its clean, sharp taste and sturdy, chewy leaves. I prefer flat-leaf, and I pull off the leaves and discard the stems.
2. Chervil….a knock-your-socks off herb full of sweet anise flavor and delicate texture.
3. Mrs. Burn’s Lemon Basil..lemon is a note that shines through all the other flavors of the salad, being a recognizable homing-signal when all those herbal flavors are at play in the mouth.
4. Wild Magic Basil….a fruity taste with a ruffly-purple-and-green leaf. I use this a little sparingly but with a pleasant surprising effect. See my recent post: http://www.urban-ag-solutions.com/put-some-wild-magic-in-your-garden-this-season/
5. Ruby Streaks Mustard…something with a little nasal kick and its own lovely reddish, feathery leaves.
6. Stevia….the “sweet leaf” sugar substitute. Again I use a few leaves sparingly but effectively.
7. “Feisty” pea shoots….these provide loft and nice pea flavor for the salad.

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