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By Iris Clark Neumann
Monday, July 08, 2013 3:15 AM
The plate includes the herbs, clockwise from top of plate, French tarragon, chervil, chives,marjoram and lemon basil. Also shown are a bowl of salad greens, feta cheese, beet pickles and pistachio.
The season of fresh salad greens has arrived! We have been beset in Eyota by not one, but two hail storms that shredded garden greens. Finally, the colorful lettuce leaves are back and ready to eat.
Along with warmer, sunnier days, I have been treated with the growth of herbs too. I had sown chervil seed and waited for weeks before growth was visible. At first I was not sure if I was seeing grass or chervil growing.
Its first leaves are more grass-like than the delicate ferny true leaves it has today.
Chervil is a new herb for me. I read about it and thought, I need to try it. The author of the book recommended starting it from seed, outdoors in the garden. This is what I tried. It has probably been two months since sowing the seed.
Tonight I harvested a few feathery sprigs to include in my salad. Chervil is one of those herbs known as the "fines herbes." It, along with fresh parsley, tarragon, and chives, are included in this flavoring blend. Sometimes summer savory or marjoram are added.
We've had a very busy two weeks since I wrote last time about eating a liquid supper - a fruit, yogurt smoothie. And tonight was another evening with little time for elaborate food prep.
A salad is quick and with enough added ingredients, it can be a quick summer meal just like a fruit smoothie.
Another evening, when I had more time to cook, I mixed up my first batch of pesto this year. All the pesto I'd frozen from last year had been consumed, so now it was time to mix up new. The basil plants are finally offering sufficient growth to provide the needed two cups chopped herbs in my pesto recipe.
In addition, I tried an interesting recipe that called for a cup of chopped parsley and nearly a cup of chopped basil, along with a small amount of chopped rosemary and mint. Mixed with minced garlic, cooked in olive oil, then adding the herbs and finally cooked shell pasta, the result was a flavorful wow!
My husband noticed the bit of mint flavor. I served the pasta with sautéed peppers and broccoli, along with some sliced sausage, warmed with the veggies. Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese covered both the pasta and veggies.
We had feasted on bread rounds spread with pesto as I finished cooking this meal.
Of course we have also spent some weekends up north, mostly fixing things, but having a bit of boat time too. Oddly, some weekends we've had better weather up north than they were experiencing back home. But there has been plenty of rain up north too.
My garden seeds at my northern garden didn't germinate as I had hoped they might initially. But the last time I was there the peas were growing and the strawberries looked like they would be red instead of greenish white the next time we came.
I'd hoped they would mature at a time when grandkids were visiting, so they could sit on the edge of the raised bed and pick them. There aren't enough plants to result in large bowls of strawberries, rather just enough to pick a few for nibbling.
The radish plants bolted, so they were a bust, but the greens were coming along nicely when we were there a week ago. I can hardly wait to see how they are when we get there tomorrow evening. We are going up for a bit longer stay over the Fourth.
Last time we were there I started a planting of perennials to create an entrance sequence as we turn into the driveway. The perennials will be the backdrop for a welcome sign and a moose head-shaped birdhouse. I am planting three spruce trees, well spaced down the slope along the driveway, along with some gooseberry and elderberry bushes. Right now there's an open view to the house from the road, but that will change with time and growth.
I found digging up the "sod" was not difficult at all. Truthfully, the grass is thin and the soil is very sandy. It was easy to turn over shovelful after shovelful.
My daughter, Amanda, visited that weekend and she served as an adviser at the two garden centers we visited, suggesting a selection of shade tolerant perennials. After bringing some home and setting them in position, I realized I needed a few more, but the garden center wasn't open when we returned on Sunday. Oh well, there's always another time to visit.
Back home, I finally planted the perennials I'd purchased from the garden center that Amanda manages - plants I'd purchased a month and a half ago.
For a plant person like me, one always needs a new frontier to plant. There was no more room to plant along the cabin's foundation. The herbs and perennials growing there were doing well, especially the columbines Logan had started from seed last year. They were blooming with delightful, delicate, double blooms.
I have eaten a number of salad meals in the last couple of weeks. I don't know if I have figured out all the possibilities for dressing up a salad. The addition of a few herbs can create a bigger flavor punch, usually the job of the salad dressing.
Admittedly, I generally use a bottled dressing, although I have good intentions of mixing up my own dressings. Vinaigrette made with oil and vinegar is a good salad topping, as are creamy dressings made with plain yogurt favored with herbs, mustard and garlic (a bit of oil and vinegar too). Or just plain old ranch dressing, seems to be a never fail solution.
I recently read that having oil with one's greens helps one receive more benefit from all the wonderful nutrients in the salad.
Tonight I snipped a few herbs, added them to a selection of leafy lettuce, then topped my salad with feta cheese, beet pickles (made with pink, not red beets) and salted pistachio nuts. I topped it with a light balsamic dressing.
To make it a complete meal, I added a few whole wheat bread rounds, topped them with pepper cheese and popped them in the microwave for 30 seconds. That way I had a contrast of hot and cold in my meal.
Here are a few ideas to use for fixing yourself a seasonal salad.
Salad Greens and the Fixings
Salad greens: Green and red leaf lettuce, spinach greens and beet or chard greens.
Herbs: Choose from marjoram, parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon, dill, mint, summer savory, or basil.
Toppings, choose from:
Cheese - feta or a shredded cheese
Chopped boiled eggs
Nuts - sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, pistachios, etc.
Thinly sliced cucumbers or small zucchini
Chopped green, red or yellow peppers
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Tear leaf greens into bite-sized pieces, filling a serving bowl or individual bowls. Create a colorful mix with the addition of darker greens like spinach, young beet or chard greens. Snip a few herbs over the greens. Try something safe like chives or get adventurous and try basil, tarragon or mint. Chervil has a fine delicate flavor.
Top greens with complementary toppings, for example feta cheese, beet pickles and pistachio nuts. Another combo might be sliced mushrooms, chopped boiled eggs and crumbled bacon.
Top with a favorite dressing and lightly toss to mix dressing and ingredients.
Serve with cheese melties - top small rounds of bread with sliced cheese. Warm them for 30 seconds in the microwave.
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