Smashing green spring salads

I hate to sound judgmental but iceberg lettuce is useless. Other than a vehicle for Thousand Island or bleu cheese, it serves no essential nutritional purpose.

In writing my diet book, one ingredient frequently used by me in raw salads are pea shoots. The agent asked me to list substitutes in case these couldn’t be found. What? Of course they can be found – you just need to know where to look.

And sometimes when I offer ‘arugula’ as a leafy green option to clients, I get a blank stare. And a shudder. Gosh, I’m afraid to mention dandelion greens!

Here’s the deal. There are so many lettuces out there that spark salads to the next cosmos. Peppery, smooth, light, dense, crunchy, frizzy – you name it, there’s a lettuce for every palette. Read on…..

Arugula – Peppery, sometimes chewy. The tiny, delicate leaves pack a powerful palette punch so dressings need to be punchy to match. Nothing light and delicate on this leaf. (Great source of potassium, vitamin K, omega-3s.)

Watercress – Also a bit peppery, some say tangy. It’s lighter and less chewy than arugula with tiny leaves and pairs nicely in Asian dishes. (Postassium, vitamins A, C, K.)

Baby spinach – An old stand-by is a perfect partner for fruit. Try mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple chunks with a strong balsamic dressing. (Vitamins A, K, folate and mineral calcium. Note: cooked spinach breaks down the oxalates that prevent uptake of calcium.)

Romaine – Perfect grilling lettuce – who knew? (Potassium, vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, mineral iron.)

Pea shoots – These treats are right off the sweet pea vine and add fresh and lively vision and taste to any salad. Look for them in the produce or natural foods sections at your grocer. (Vitamins A, K and folate.)

Fiddleheads – in New England, my home of 12 years, I’ve grown to adore and search out these early spring delicacies. I eat until fiddleheads come out of my ears. They are curled up fronds of ostrich ferns with an asparagus-like taste. Sauté them lightly for the best flavor.

There’s no stopping you now. Let me know how you serve these spring salads.


Grilled Romaine with Black Bean and Corn Salad
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