College Kitchen: spring salads

Toss out those sprouting root vegetables, and start tossing salad.

College Kitchen: spring salads

Lucy Nieboer

This time of year, students can be seen around campus trying to work our stubborn, rusted bicycle chains, at the coffee shops ordering the first cold-presses since September and at home ceremoniously folding long underwear and tucking it in a corner on the highest shelf.

The biggest and most celebrated change for food-monsters, of course, is the abundance of available fresh produce. Almost overnight the grocery store is filled with firm, brightly colored fruits and vegetables selling for a fraction of their winter prices.

To make the most of these juicy gifts from nature and get ready for swimsuit season, indulge in a plateful of crunchy veggies.

 

Everything Chopped Salad

This kind of salad is great because you can get away with using a flavor-lacking lettuce that packs a major crunch factor. Its job is to provide a textural element — which it does fabulously. The flavor factor really dazzles with the multitude of toppings and a sweet, spicy dressing.

 

1 heart of romaine lettuce

1/2 avocado

5-10 red grapes

1/2 tomato

1/2 green pepper

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

1 handful walnuts

2-3 pieces cooked bacon (optional)

 

Dressing

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Sriracha

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon mustard

Freshly cracked pepper

 

Chop the lettuce into small pieces. Wash, and dry. Put the lettuce in a large bowl. Roughly chop the avocado, grapes, tomato and pepper into small cubes. Add them to the bowl. Crumble the bacon, and add it to the bowl if you wish.

In a small cup or bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, and toss it thoroughly. Top with the parmesan cheese and nuts.

 

Salsa Salad

A take on the favorite Mexican condiment, pico de gallo or salsa fresca, this salad allows you to bask in the complicated flavors of acidity, spice and sweetness for an entire meal — not just an appetizer.

 

1 block firm tofu or 1-2 grilled chicken breasts

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 lime

4 cloves garlic

1 carton cherry tomatoes

1/2 red bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 jalapeno pepper

 

Chop the chicken or tofu into cubes. Put the cubes in a large bowl. Mince the garlic and cilantro. Toss the protein in the mixture. Squeeze the juice from the lime over the bowl. Also add the lime zest to the bowl. Let this mixture marinate for 1-2 hours. Chop the pepper, and halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss with the peppers. Plate the salad on a large platter with the tomatoes on the bottom, and top with the marinated protein.

 

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

This recipe is a collision of subtle flavors and textures. Crunchy, fried shallots are offset by cool cucumber and potent fresh herbs.

 

3 large shallots

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 English cucumber (unwaxed, usually wrapped in plastic)

1 tomato

2 tablespoons chopped mint

2 tablespoons chopped thai basil

1 tablespoon dill pickle

Vegetable oil

Salt

Pepper

 

Peel shallots, and slice them into one fourth inch rings. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, it’s hot enough to add about an inch of oil to the bottom of the pan. When the swirl of oil flows like water, add the rings of shallots. Stir the shallots in the oil, and watch as they caramelize. After about 10 minutes, they should be a rich, deep brown color. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon, and let them drain on paper towels. Save the oil from the pan to be used later in the dressing.

Thinly slice the cucumbers. Roughly chop the tomato and herbs. The pieces should be big enough to stand up to the vinaigrette.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice and two teaspoons of the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the cucumber and tomato in the dressing. Plate with the herbs and fried shallots.

Adapted from Sophie and Eric Banh’s “Cucumber Salad with Caramelized Shallots and Herbs.”

 

In the springtime, the University population seems to double. Slowly, the students of the tundra crawl out of their safe places of hibernation and turn toward the bounty that awaits. With so many healthy meals to eat alfresco and fresh produce on hand, life’s only looking up from here on out.