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Soup up your salad routine with an all-herb blend and lose the lettuce entirely.
Herbs have been inching their way into our salad bowls for a while now, and many vegetables that we think of as traditional salad greens, such as watercress, are actually in the herb family. But the pre-packaged "herb salad" mixtures sold at the supermarket are mostly mesclun with a few sprigs of dill thrown in. A pale imitation of the real deal at best.
What we're talking about here is a salad made from tender leafy herbs and nothing but. It is fragrant, colorful, and refreshing, and a wonderful way to use up fresh herbs when you've bought a big bunch and your recipe only calls for a pinch or two. Generally herbs with a woody stem, like thyme, sage, or rosemary aren't good salad candidates, but beyond that, anything goes. Aim for a mixture of at least three or four different varieties for the prettiest presentation and pair strongly flavored leaves like basil or dandelion with milder options. Chervil, mint, and nasturtium leaves go with almost anything, as do the aforementioned members of the cress family.
Salads are also a fun way to explore some of the unusual and old- fashioned herb varieties you see at the farmer's market, like cucumber-y salad burnet, or the blossoms of scented geraniums, and if you like growing your own herbs it offers another use for the cinnamon basil and dill that are in danger of going to seed. Some snipped chives are a nice addition, as are edible flowers; try purple borage flowers, pansies and roses (unsprayed only!) or nasturtium flowers‚Äîthey are herbs, too!
Most herbs are quite delicate and will quickly darken when chopped, so keep the leaves whole or, if very large, tear them gently by hand. Whole leaves can also be washed and stored in the fridge for several hours wrapped in a damp kitchen towel. Don't weigh down your herb salad with heavy add-ins or chunky, cheesy dressings; pick a light bright vinaigrette, with a hint of creaminess if you like, to allow the herbaceous flavors to shine through. Dress the salad just before serving as these fragile leaves become soggy quickly. Top your herb salad with a few pan-roasted scallops or a thin-pounded chicken breast and you have a plate that is as light and healthy as it is beautiful.