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Just visualize whirled peas (in your salad)

May 23, 2013
Spring fling salad with pea vinaigrette.

Spring fling salad with pea vinaigrette.

Spring has flung itself in to a full bird chirping, gotta grow frenzy! I always know I have spring fever when I lay awake in bed and visualize all the things I can make with the spring ingredients bursting out of the ground. “Let’s see, I could make that fabulous salad I’ve been wanting to try with the peas from the garden…” And the list goes on and on. I’m just popping like the spring buds with fresh produce ideas.

I’ll admit it, I’m the queen of salads. They are one of my favorite foods and I love making them in lots of inventive ways and it is where my mind turns when dreaming up ways to use fresh produce. It wasn’t always like this, there was a day when I.simply.hated.salads. Of course it didn’t help that I grew up in the high desert of Idaho and the only salad I ever saw was a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a glug of thousand island dressing dripping down the sides of it. Gag.
Then one day my relationship with salads dramatically changed. I was about 10 and we were at some family shindig and my Aunt Marie brought the most amazing salad I had ever seen. It made its dramatic appearance in a giant clear glass bowl that showed off the fact that it was fabulously layered with bacon, hard boiled eggs, onions, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and fresh green peas. It was topped with cheddar cheese and this gooey delicious salad dressing that was NOT thousand island. I was transfixed.

I loaded up my plate with that brightly colored salad and took a bite. Lights went on and an angel sung on high; my dormant taste buds came alive that day. Who knew veggies could taste so good? I made the momentous decision (particularly for a 10 year old) right then and there that I was going to grow up and love eating and making salads. I was going to be known far and wide as the “salad lady”.

It wasn’t easy becoming the “salad lady” especially when one comes from the potato kingdom of Idaho. But I did it. There are two simply rules to use that I have learned in my quest of making knock out salads;

1) Use the freshest of produce possible that is grown close to home. The sooner you eat it after it is picked the more sweet and juicy it is. I’m not just a locavore to be politically correct but I am basically a hedonist, and the flavor is just so much better.
2) The other tip is to make your own salad dressings. There is no comparison in flavor of a homemade dressing to a store bought one. Also every.single. store bought salad dressing that I have read the label on has something bad in the ingredients. No exceptions. It’s remarkable and scary. Just avoid all that and make your own tastier dressings. (It’s easy!)

Don’t be afraid to experiment with this forgiving food. Look up different salad recipes on line and give ‘em a shot. Once again, use produce in season for the best flavor, like this salad I’m sharing with you. It was the one I was dreaming up. You can use all the elements from this salad and use whatever is in season. For example, use one cup of arugula in the salad dressing instead of peas. The goat cheese rounds can turn any plain Jane salad into a special course fit for guests. Just change the herbs to whatever is in season. Enjoy eating spring.

Look at those lovely greens!

Look at those lovely greens!

Spring herb salad with goat cheese rounds and green pea vinaigrette
I used oregano, chives, green garlic, rosemary, sage and tarragon from my garden. If you have pea tendrils from a garden, they make a splendid addition to this salad. Also if you can get lemon pressed olive oil, it really shines in this dressing!!

Green pea vinaigrette
This salad dressing is very fibrous and thick. Add more water till you get the consistency that you want. Also if you just want a fiber-free green dressing, strain the fiber out in a mesh strainer. I personally love the rich fiber in it.

1/3 cup of champagne vinegar
OR 1/3 cup of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, hopefully homemade
1 cup of blanched green peas, shelled
OR 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 stalk of green garlic or 1-2 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh herbs from the garden, minced
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil or lemon pressed olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
1/4- 1/2 of salt, I used Maldon sea salt flakes
Few cranks of black pepper

Add the first five ingredients to the blender and give it a whirl till everything is a nice green color. While the blender is going, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream till all gone. Then slowly add the water till it is the desired consistency. Add the salt and pepper and adjust as your tongue tells you too. Serve with salad.

Goat cheese rounds

2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
The zest of one lemon
1 teaspoons of paprika or smoked paprika
2-4 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs
1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel or other fine salt
11-12 ounce log of goat cheese, sliced into 16 slices

Mix all your spices and zest together in a small bowl and stir them tell well mixed. Take your slices of goat cheese and roll them around in the spice mix till totally encrusted with spring and spices. Place the spiced goat rounds on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper and place in the fridge to chill until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.

The salad and assembly
10-12 cups of spring greens
2 carrots shredded
1/2 red onion, minced
6-8 tablespoons of fresh herbs, minced
6-10 radishes, thinly sliced
2 cups of shelled blanched peas
Or 2-3 cups of sugar snap peas, cut into bite sized pieces

Mix all the greens, herbs, carrot and red onion in a large lovely bowl then divide evenly among 4 even more beautiful plates. Add the peas and radishes to the plates. Place 4 spiced goat cheese rounds on each salad plate and serve with the salad dressing on the side for each person to drizzle as much of that green goodness on as they want.

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