After having dinner at a friend’s house a few days ago, I was confronted with something I hadn’t seen in a month: a large, leafy green salad. Through traveling the East Coast and eating out so much, I had forgotten the family joys of a giant bowl filled with salad greens, various chopped vegetables and fruits, cheese, nuts and seeds, etc. I quickly stuffed large forkfuls into my mouth, savoring the crunch of the lettuce spines as the invigorating dressing tingled the corners of my lips. It was as pleasant a return to California as I could imagine.
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To keep this salad going, I’m going to be riffing on substantial dinner salads all week, starting with this Chopped Pear Salad with Buttermilk Vinaigrette that’s loaded with chunky cubes of pear and Gruyere and topped with walnuts and germs. It’s based on a salad I ate in Big Sur many years ago that I often think about how cozy and refreshing it was at the same time. It’s perfect for this time of year.
I similarly revere Christian Reynoso’s Red Cabbage and Date Salad with Preserved Lemon and Pistachio. The crunchy red cabbage is earthy and bright while the dates and pistachios give the salad plenty of heft. Dates are now in season at the markets, so buy some of the dozens of varieties available and play with them in this salad.
And David Tanis offers a pair of salads that are particularly popular this week. Her Lime Parmesan Radish Salad is great topped with whatever protein you like – grilled chicken, fish or shrimp all work great – or simply topped with some toasted nuts. And even though it’s a little early in the season, I love her persimmon and pomegranate salad with bitter greens as a model for a radicchio-based salad. Use apples or pears instead of persimmons for now and keep them in your back pocket for whenever you want a simple but sustainable salad to make you feel at home.
Chopped Pear Salad with Buttermilk Vinaigrette
I prefer a pear that is firmer when ripe and not so mealy for this salad, like a Comice or, if you can find them, Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farms; their texture and aroma stand up best to cheese, nuts and creamy dressing. Try the garlic-free dressing first, then add it if desired. This gives the dressing a Caesar feel that can compete with the other flavors in the salad. Get the recipe. Cooking time: 15 minutes.
Red cabbage and date salad with candied lemon and pistachios
The dates get the slaw/salad treatment here, adding bursts of sweet and chewy to the crunch and flavor of this dish. This goes great with pork chops, braised chicken or warm flatbread and labneh. Get the recipe. Cooking time: 15 minutes.
Radish Salad with Lime and Parmesan
It’s great to make salads with things you wouldn’t normally make, like this one, made mostly with radishes. It’s excellent on its own or with a piece of roast chicken. Get the recipe. Cooking time: 15 minutes.
Persimmon and pomegranate salad with bitter lettuces
This salad has a lovely combination of sweet and bitter, my favorite flavor pairing. If you don’t have lettuce, the fruit makes a great salad on its own with a few mint leaves added. This would also be delicious with chopped fennel. Get the recipe. Cooking time: 15 minutes.