We are right smack dab in the middle of salad season. Our P-Patch plot is filled with rows of baby arugula and crumply heads of butter lettuce. And last week I discovered a few leaf lettuce volunteers growing between some fava beans.
To make sure our salads stay interesting, I keep a big selection of mix-ins on hand. Our freezer is stocked with slivered almonds, pine nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts. And you can usually find some good aged Parmesan, blue cheese, sheep’s milk feta, and goat cheese from the farmer’s market in the fridge.
I also like to use fresh herbs from the garden in salads, especially flat leaf parsley, cilantro, and chives. This year I’m also growing chervil for the first time, because I love the texture and flavor it adds to greens.
I’ve gotten in the habit of mixing up a fresh vinaigrette at the beginning of the week and storing it in a little glass carafe. That way I have everything on hand and it’s easy to throw together a salad at the last minute.
In my pantry I keep red and white wine, balsamic, rice, sherry, and apple cider vinegars. I’ve also started buying olive oil in bulk at PCC, which is a co-op here in Seattle. They carry a delicious, organic extra virgin olive oil from Napa. Buying it in bulk is very economical and also reduces the amount of packaging coming in and out of our house (for those of you who don’t live in Seattle, I’ve noticed that Whole Foods carries a couple of different bulk olive oils).
Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a citrus vinaigrette kick. Last week I made a delicious Parmesan citrus vinaigrette from 101 Cookbooks, and the week before I tried a lime dressing from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers, which is filled with all sorts of inspirational salads (including one with grilled apricots that I can’t wait to try when apricots come into season).
But my favorite citrusy vinaigrette is a lemon thyme one that I created last summer. I was inspired by a super simple salad I tried at a potluck. All it contained was mixed greens tossed with a lemony vinaigrette and an injudicious amount of Parmesan cheese. It was out of this world and has become my go-to salad when I’m feeling lazy but still want to serve something healthy and delicious with dinner.
Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette
Lemon juice and zest give this vinaigrette a very bright, fresh taste and the thyme lends a subtle herby flavor. I like to use a ½ teaspoon of lemon thyme and a ½ teaspoon of English thyme, but a full teaspoon of either tastes equally good. The addition of white balsamic vinegar and honey balances out the tartness of the lemon juice. This dressing keeps well for up to two weeks in the fridge and for several days on the counter.
What you’ll need:
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
Lemon zest from half a lemon
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
3 teaspoons honey (or a bit more if you have a really sour lemon)
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. In a small bowl whisk together all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2. While you are whisking, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Correct the seasonings (sometimes I add a bit more vinegar or honey) and add salt and pepper to taste.