Salad season is upon us - finally! In southern California the season changes are subtle but there are changes. Our winter greens are bolting with flowers as the temperatures warm, lettuces are coming in, herbs like dill, mint and cilantro are in their element and the citrus is in full swing. We are starting to crave lighter and greener fare. Seasonal greens, herbs, lemons, a few root vegetables and a little honey - a perfect salad.
The bees are so prevalent in our garden that you can actually smell the honey on them. They buzz by me with their pollen laden legs and I am startled to catch the honey scent. So, in my mind it must be honey season too. We have awesome Farmer’s Markets in California and I like to buy my honey from a special vendor. He has many different types of honey and will gladly discuss their flavor and consistency so I can choose just the right one. For the Honey Vinaigrette, we picked a sage honey because it has a mild herb flavor and a runny consistency in the spring.
I have a neighbor with the most prolific Meyer lemon tree. When he offers extras I always accept even though I have my own lemon tree. You see my tree is a standard lemon and there are differences. Both are great and work well in vinaigrettes but……. the Meyer is special. It has a sweeter flavor - almost orange like. My neighbor will carry around pieces of Meyer lemon and eat them just like an orange segment. The skin on a Meyer is thinner and smoother - making it perfect for lemon marmalade, but that is for another day.
Early spring is the showstopper season for salad greens. There are intense purples and many varied leaf shapes - curly and ridged are favorites. I am harvesting radicchio, red veined sorrel, arugula, red tinted lettuces, mâché, baby mustard greens, baby chard leaves and herbs. I am also starting to pull purple cosmic carrots and some small golden beets - perfect shaved thin and eaten raw. All this garden goodness just seems to cry out for a sweeter topping since all early leafy greens tend to have a slight bitter note.
If you are buying your greens at a store - consider arugula, radicchio and baby romaine. All of these are easy to find most anywhere. If you feel adventurous, add in some chard leaves or any other baby leaf you can find. Add in some seasonal herbs like cilantro, dill and mint. Yes, mint in salad works!
Lemon Honey Vinaigrette with Early Greens
Baby mustard greens
Young pea shoots
Seasonal herbs - dill, cilantro and mint for me
Shaved baby golden beets
Shaved carrot - I used purple cosmic but any kind works
HONEY LEMON VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice - Meyer if you can get them
2 tablespoons local honey
1 teaspoon prepared brown mustard
1 grated garlic clove
1/2 cup good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake well. I like to use a canning jar because measures are marked on the glass - easy! There will be extras for another meal. The vinaigrette stores well and keeps in the refrigerator for a few days.
Tear greens and herbs into bite sized pieces. Arrange on plate or in bowl and garnish with the shaved carrots, shaved beets and extra herbs. Top with dressing. Add extra salt and pepper if needed.