Joni Woolf: Springtime is salad time

Published 1:47 pm Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gardens private and commercial are bursting these days with the leafy greens that make the most delectable salads. Recently my friend, Susan Beger, brought me two lovely bags of salad mixes from the garden that her husband, Norman Race, grows every spring. I rode by the garden recently, and it is everything a pretty spring garden should be — straight rows of several shades of green (with a neat little fence to keep Brer Rabbit away). Many folks are now growing their own. Some of us do not have the time, the will, the skill, or the stamina to do this, so we rely on the marketplace. Wherever you get your greens, there’s no better time than mid-spring to enjoy all that nature — and a lot of human endeavor — can offer. Add a meat or pasta, and you have a complete meal.

Warm Spinach Salad
6 oven roasted shallots, coarsely chopped ((bake whole in 250 degree oven for 40 minutes)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup cabernet wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon vinegar
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

6 oz. mild soft goat cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, savory and marjoram
2 bunches or 1 bag cleaned spinach, largest leaves torn into smaller pieces
Place shallots, garlic, vinegar, mustard and pepper in a medium-size mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in oil. Add salt to taste. Roll goat cheese in herbs to form a 2-inch thick log. Slice into 4 circles and reserve. Place spinach leaves in a large bowl. In a medium-size saute pan, heat dressing over high heat until it just reaches a boil. Pour over spinach and toss. Place spinach on salad plates and top with a goat cheese round. Serves 4. (This recipe adapted from “Caprial’s Seasonal Kitchen.”)

Cucumber Salad
4 medium cucumbers
1 large sweet onion, preferably Vidalia, sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil
Celery seed

Peel cucumbers. Score lengthwise with tines of fork. Slice cucumbers thin. Place cucumbers and onions in salted ice water; let stand 1 to 2 hours. Cook sugar and water over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool. Add vinegar and oil to cooled sugar syrup; mix well. Drain and rinse cucumber and onion slices. Pour vinegar and oil mixture over them to cover. Sprinkle with celery seed to taste. Refrigerate overnight in large Zip-loc bag. Serves 8 to 10.

BLT Pasta Salad (adapted from Fresh Market and Friends)

8 slices bacon, cooked crisp, and broken into ½-inch pieces
10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup Thousand Island dressing
¼ cup scallions, finely chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
8 oz. spiral pasta
Leaf lettuce, such as Romaine
Cook and drain pasta. Place bacon, tomatoes, and pasta in large mixing bowl. In another bowl combine dressing, scallions, egg, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Pour over pasta mixture and combine. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. If salad appears dry, add a small amount of olive oil. To serve, arrange leaf lettuce on a platter, spooning salad onto center. To make an even fuller meal of this, add one cup of diced cooked chicken.

Years ago, I created my own salad dressing recipe, based loosely on one I found in a Signal Mountain Baptist Church Cookbook. I reduced the sugar significantly, and added spices. It is my favorite salad dressing for most occasions, and lasts for weeks. I store it in an empty red wine vinegar bottle that I save for just such uses. Here’s my take on an oil and vinegar recipe:

Salad Dressing
Mix together in bowl:
¼ cup sugar (or less)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated onion
2 or 3 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped finely
Add slowly, alternately, beating with small whisk:
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
When finished, add one teaspoon celery seeds and stir well. Store in refrigerator and keep up to four weeks.

Eat your greens. They are good for you, straight from Mother Nature. And Mother always knows best.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at