The early colonists thought so highly of the healthful benefits of greens that they carried their dandelions with them. And though they were most certainly prized for their medicinal value, they were also a vital salad green. Salad greens were an important part of their diet, as they are for us on the farm today. We are fortunate to have access to fairly decent produce all year round, but it could never be considered an event (as of the grand sallats of the Medieval Period), much less a meal, in the winter time. Though I am not spending two hours prepping a salad for dinner/lunch, there is something about hauling in the assortment of amazing, fresh greens and other sundries that makes it a feast.
I’ll eat a salad every day for lunch, and if I am alone, it will be a heap of greens (easy if they are washed and ready) with a scoop of cottage cheese, a cucumber or tomato, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. BUT, many days there is the family to feed at lunch and the salad becomes a little more involved, which simply means I will pull out anything in the veggie drawer and any leftover meat that might lend itself well. Then, it is a a matter of making dressing (but reaching for a favorite bottle saves time) and piling it up.
This week we had cukes, a green pepper, a few carrots, a tomato, a yellow zucchini (if I slice it into really lovely matchsticks, everyone likes it in the salad), two ears of scraped corn, crumbled feta, and chunked up left-over ham. Reid’s favorite luxury topping is steak, which I usually reserve for supper time, as there is seldom any leftover from a previous meal. If there is no meat, I tend to add a can of rinsed black or Great Northern beans for protein. It is truly an ideal way to use up all the “scraps” from the CSA box, as well as previous meals.
What’s on your salad?
I love to read cookbooks – especially early ones. Here’s a fine salad recipe from Hannah Glasse’s 1747 volume The Aft of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Her words demonstarate that presentation was a big consideration. Note how much like a Chicken Ceasar Salad this is
To make ſalamongundy.
TAKE two or three Roman or cabbage lettuces, and when you have waſhed them clean, ſwing them pretty dry in a cloth ; then beginning at the open end, cut them croſs-ways as fine as a good big thread, and lay the lettuces ſo cut, about an inch thick, all over the bottom of a diſh. When you have thus garniſhed your diſh, take two cold roaſted pullets or chickens, and cut the fleſh off the breaſts and wings into ſlices, about three inches long, a quarter of an inch broad, and as thin as a ſhilling : lay them upon the lettuce round the end to the middle of the diſh, and the other towards the brim ; then having boned and cut ſix anchovies, each into eight pieces, lay them all between each ſlice of the fowls, then cut the lean meat off the legs into dice, and cut a lemon into ſmall dice ; then mince the yolks of four eggs, three or four anchovies, and a little parſley, and make a round heap of theſe in your diſh, piling it up in the form of a ſugar-loaf, and garniſh it with onions as big as the yolks of eggs, boiled in a good deal of water very tender and white. Put the largeſt of the onions in the middle on the top of the ſalamongundy, and lay the reſt all round the brim of the diſh, as thick as you can lay them ; then beat ſome ſallad oil up with vinegar, ſalt, and pepper, and pour over it all. Garniſh with grapes juſt ſcalded, or French beans blanched, or aſtertion-flowers, and ſerve it up for a firſt courſe.