Now that spring is in full bloom, the season’s bounty of fresh, leafy greens is ripe for your salad bowl. But what if the weather’s not quite warm enough to enjoy cool, crunchy raw salads, yet not cold enough to make you crave hot-‘n’-hearty braised greens?
We’ve got the perfect solution: make a warm salad.
Warm salads offer the ideal mix of temperature and texture and coax the best flavors out of spring’s nutritious greens, whether you use tender spinach and arugula or more hardy endive, radicchio and baby kale. It’s worth making your leafy greens as enticing as possible since eating plenty of them is a foundational part of radiant health. They’re rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, and eating greens (especially dark green ones like spinach and kale) is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and inflammation.
The best approach for assembling a warm salad depends on which greens you select. Here are a few tasty ways to give your spring salad a warm embrace:
- Grill or roast your greens: Members of the chicory family, including endive (yellow-tipped white leaves) and radicchio (reddish-purple leaves), bear leaves that have enough fortitude to stand up to some serious heat. Toss the separated leaves with olive oil and roast in a 400° F oven for 20 minutes or place on a hot grill for about 8 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking either way. These bitter greens pair well with fresh crumbled goat cheese, a cool, citrusy vinaigrette and toasted nuts.
- Toss your greens with hot dressing: Delicate greens like spinach and arugula don’t need much heat to make their leaves soft. To get them warm and wilted (rather than fully cooked), try making a hot vinaigrette that’s then tossed with the greens. Heat some olive oil in a pan along with chopped shallots or garlic, just until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, grainy mustard and sea salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad greens with the warm dressing and then add any desired toppings such as shaved spring veggies like fennel and artichokes and a warm protein of your choice, like grilled chicken or shrimp.
- Quickly sauté your greens: Yes, you can give your salad greens a flash in a hot pan without making them a soggy mess…if you do it for just a minute or two! Good candidates for skillet-kissed greens include leaves that are somewhere in between tough and tender, like escarole, watercress, swiss chard, kale and mustard greens. Sauté the greens briefly in olive oil, minced garlic and sea salt to taste until just wilted. Combine with seasonal toppings of your choice, like green beans or fava beans, roasted carrots and/or grilled asparagus and a light lemony dressing.