Salad For Dinner: Beyond Lettuce.

One of my favorite moments with one of our the members of our Community Supported Agriculture programwas when, last summer, Mo told us in a tone of surprise “I realized this summer that I love salads, I just don’t like lettuce!”  She’d spent the summer loving the “spicy mix” and other Asian greens, Boc Choi, Napa Cabbage, and all the other fresh leaves that go way beyond lettuce.  I’ve been remembering that discovery for several reasons this week.  

For one, we are still hoping to enroll quite a few more members into our summer CSA program, which starts this Tuesday, so I’ve been considering how to explain the program and the benefits you can get from becoming a part of the farm family in this way.  Exposure to new types of leaves and vegetables is actually one of the best features of a farm membership.  We all get stuck in ruts and habits, but when you are presented with a bag of leaves of a different type than usually fill your salad bowl, or a head of fennel or boc choi, you are likely to eat it simply because it is in your kitchen—and more often than not, we hear from our members, you are likely to just fall in love!  Whether it’s discovering salads other than lettuce, learning to cook something you’d never buy at the store, or just having a little more impetus to actually get your 5+ servings of veggies a day, letting us pack a bag of vegetables for you each week can open up some new habits and experiences, and we think that’s great.  

I’ve also been thinking of salads beyond lettuce for a slightly more embarrassing reason—a major mis-calculation on my part meant we over-estimated our lettuce yield this week, and in selling 57 pounds of lettuce mix to the Western Montana Grower’s Co-op yesterday, we fear we may run short at market.  With hot weather on the way, salads for dinner are going to sound great, and we are short on lettuce?!  Nuts.  But then of course I remembered, there’s more to salads than lettuce!  And we have plenty of other greens coming in.  And so, for this week, a new dressing recipe (thought up in the washing station with hands full of greens, and tested out Thursday night), and a couple of simple ideas for non-lettuce salads.  With a sudden change of weather and forecasts of highs in the 90’s, now is a perfect time to load up on cool crisp greens, keep a few types of pre-cooked protein in the fridge (hard boiled eggs, tofu, chicken, etc.), and build up a solid dinner salad.  

Boc Choi cut in the field, ready to join you at the dinner table.  As a raw green, it's high water content and crunch make for a great cooling salad, perfect for the hot weekend coming up.  

This week’s recommended, non-lettuce salad #1:  

Mild and crisp: Boc Choi and Radish Salad with Sesame-Miso Dressing

Cut the bottom end off of a head of boc choi, and rinse all stems and leaves in cold water (we dunk the heads in clean cold water, but sometimes soil hides down at the base of the stems, so a second rinse before cooking is good).  Chop all stems and leaves finely.  Combine in a large salad bowl with one bunch of radishes, grated or thinly sliced.  Snow peas or snap peas make a nice addition, too. Sliced hard-boiled egg or baked tofu are great mixed in to make this more of a meal.  Serve with dressing recipe below, as a salad, or rolled into a tortilla for an easy lunch wrap.  

Miso-sesame dressing.   A mild but savory dressing, we think it does go well with Boc choi, radishes, and/or Asian greens.  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons Miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Blend all ingredients until smooth, store in an airtight jar in the fridge. 

This week’s recommended, non-lettuce salad #2:  

Strong, Sweet, and Spicy:  Asian Greens and Ginger Dressing

Top baby Asian Greens (the greens mix formerly known as “spicy mix”) with snow peas, scallions, and cubes of chilled grilled chicken.  Dress with the Ginger-soy dressing from this recipe.  Tossed with chilled cooked noodles or crusty bread, this makes a good hot-weather salad dinner.