Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Everyday Salad: Kate's Fresh Herb Salad & Lemon Vinaigrette

For the first time in my life, I attempted to grow something this summer. This was a risky bet, as I do not have a green thumb. I have no children, pets, or plants, and therefore, no responsibility to tend to anything other than my husband (and well, if I forget to feed or water him, he’ll let me know!). I thought about growing my own herbs a couple summers ago. My mom informed me that I’d need to water them a couple times a day, so I quickly abandoned that idea. But this summer I decided to give it an attempt. I figured that even if I couldn’t keep them alive for long, I’d at least get my money’s worth in the beginning.

We purchased some basil, mint, chives, Italian parsley, and cilantro from the farmers’ market and planted them in a small planter at home. The total cost was under $10, so after just a couple uses, I had already surpassed what I could have purchased for that amount of money at the grocery store. I’m pleased to say that I’ve been good adequate at remembering to water them. My mint took a little while to get started, but it’s coming in nicely now (and from what others are telling me, it will never go away!). The cilantro has had it, but we had a good run. It has been so convenient and economical to be able to step outside, trim a few leaves, and add fresh homegrown herbs to my dishes.

One evening this summer I was throwing together a salad, and decided to use all of the herbs that I had. I actually just tossed the herbs with some arugula, added a little dressing, and that was it – a delicious, yet simple salad! I started making this salad every night. It is so simple and light. I have so many salad recipes that include lots of cheeses, beans, nuts, dried fruit, etc., which are all quite good, but on a warm summer day, this is refreshing and hits the spot.

In the recipe below, I’ve included pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano to add some texture, but if you’re up for a simplified salad, feel free to omit them. This vinaigrette is my standard dressing that I use on almost all salads. I make a batch and keep it in a mason jar in the refrigerator to last throughout the week. I think the dressing tastes great with just the lemon and the olive oil, but my husband complained that he tasted “too much lemon”, and with the addition of a little honey and Dijon, he likes it very much now! This is a salad that you can get creative with and add your own favorite herbs, cheese, nuts, and/or dried fruits.

Kate's Fresh Herb Salad & Lemon Vinaigrette

For Lemon Vinaigrette:
* 1 lemon (juice and zest)
* ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
* ½ teaspoon honey
* ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For Fresh Herb Salad:
* 8 cups loosely packed arugula
* ½ cup fresh herbs (such as basil, cilantro, chives, Italian parsley), coarsely chopped
* 2 green onions, chopped
* ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
* ¼ pine nuts, toasted

Zest half of the lemon, and combine with juice from entire lemon, olive oil, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Either whisk ingredients together in a small bowl, or combine ingredients in a container with a sealable top (such as a mason jar) and shake until all ingredients are incorporated. (The vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)

In a large bowl, toss arugula with green onions, fresh herbs, and a couple tablespoons of dressing, so lettuce is just barely coated. Arrange salad mixture on individual plates, and to garnish, sprinkle each salad with cheese, pine nuts, and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

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