Recipe: A True Green Salad
Salads are personal and when it comes to a salad, you know what you like and how you like it.
I have two sides to my salad preference. I can either tap into my Texas roots and devour an iceberg lettuce wedge with creamy blue cheese dressing or scour my garden and yard for wild greens to be mixed with some from my garden and simply dress them with lemon and olive oil. My pops has always loved wilted, soggy salad and Hudson, my stepson, is one of the best eaters of any 8 year old out there, but he had a salad on a Delta flight once that still to this day is his favorite salad (eek, I know…now quit your judging and just keep reading).
Greens are so wonderfully abundant this time of year, whether they are intentionally planted in a garden, or just popping up around your yard. My mother-in-law pointed out some of the best wild arugula I have had in years growing up in the center of my gravel driveway. I harvested some and coincidentally was reading The Gentleman’s Companion by Charles H. Baker, Jr. for some inspiration and came across a witty nine-step process to making a “true” salad followed by a few “words to the wise.”
I decided to follow his steps and make a “true” salad with the arugula harvested from my driveway, and delicious it was (in my best Yoda voice). Try it out with whatever greens suit your fancy and if you are feeling adventurous, get out in your yard or local park and pick some wild greens! You’d be amazed at what around you is edible. Heck, just last week I was in Manhattan for a day and saw a tomato plant growing out of the side of a building between two bricks!
A True French Green Salad
- Chill oil and vinegar until moment of use.
- Chill greens. Discard old leaves. Trim brown stem ends.
- If we are really a purist we’ll store greens in the fragrant wood mixing bowl, in the refrigerator. Chilling both.
- If really necessary for sand or sanitary reasons to wash, do so; if not, please do not. Blot off all traces of water or moisture with a cloth, or between cloths. As has been told, salad dressing simply will not cling to wet surfaces and the dressing does not stay put.
- Break up the salad greens in the case of iceberg lettuce, with the fingers, don’t cut into slices with a knife-just why we cannot explain. Neither can anyone explain why gentlemen should pay unpleasant ladies alimony. Just break up the green willy-nilly.
- Rub bowl with garlic clove, lightly or heavily as desired, after salt has been tossed into the wood. The abrasive action is perfect, and becoming attached to the solvent and soluble salt, the garlic promptly permeates the dressing.
- Pour dressing over salad in the bowl. Toss briskly but never violently, at once, while leaves are crisp. Stop tossing when each individual leaf is coated. Soon we can proportion dressing so that when tossed the greens are coated and not one supernumerary drop remains in the bowl.
- Serve on the instant, if crisp salad is desired.
- If a moderately wilted salad of preferred, fatiguer-make tired-the lettuces by further tossing; or by letting stand for a few moments after the first tossing siege.
Words to the Wise No. XXIV, concerning the INEVITABILITY of GARLIC in GREEN SALADS
No salad mixer worthy of his bowl ever omits garlic from a green salad, and onion simply won’t substitute… the rules are simple and 3.
- Chopped garlic, no matter how fine, must never be used in an American salad.
- Either toss salt in bowl before rubbing garlic around the wood; or for more delicate palates, rub garlic on a bit of toast or hard stale bread called a chapon, for debatable reasons, and toss this instrument about among the greens.
- About 1/4 clove of average size, rubbed off on the wood, will suit average tastes.
(from The Gentleman’s Companion by Charles H. Baker, Jr.)
Lady Jayne’s modern and more detailed version of the above recipe
1/3 fresh garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel
A hearty handful of wild arugula
1/2 lemon wedge
Extra virgin olive oil
1 sexy wooden bowl (please don’t use a waxed, sealed or bamboo bowl…use a real, raw hardwood bowl. You’ll thank me for this advice in a few years when its totally seasoned and become a masterpiece in your kitchen)
Add 1/2 the amount of salt to your wood bowl. As detailed in Charles H. Baker Jr’s recipe above, take your garlic clove (I use more than he suggested because I love garlic) and rub the garlic into the bowl in circular motion, using the salt as friction.
Add your arugula to the bowl and take a moist towel and cover the top of your green with the towel and place in the fridge while you pour yourself some wine.
After you have completed the bottle of wine and are opening the next bottle, to be consumed with the salad this time, remove the salad from the fridge and discard the moist towel.
Squeeze the lemon over the top of the arugula, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt.
And please, with all due respect for these greens, don’t bruise your beautiful, tender greens by stabbing at them with a metal fork. Please use your fingers or some wooden chopsticks to eat your salad! I truly believe if Charles H. Baker Jr. was still alive, he would agree with me.
What are your must-do steps for making salad?
Photo Credit: Jori Jayne Emde
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