I’m hopelessly fickle when it comes to salads. One meal I fall hard for a fiery greek number studded with olives and the next I’m all about avocados laced with sprouts. Days later I’ll proclaim shaved asparagus with lemon and parmesan the best salad ever. I can’t help it. I’m in love with them all.
But if I absolutely had to pick my most treasured salad, it would have to be the first, no-frills lettuce salad straight from the spring garden. I change it up depending on what’s available, but my go to combination is a head of velvety buttercrunch lettuce tossed with thin radish slices and scallions.
I realize this is hardly a fair time of year to be making such sweeping declarations, but this one I can defend. Even when the sturdy greens of fall start rolling in, I’ll hold tight. A garlicky caesar based kale salad or romaine quarters tossed on the grill with crumbled blue cheese might give these simple inaugural spring salads a run for their money, but if push came to shove, I know which one I’d pick.
Spring is continuing to drag her feet on up into northern Wisconsin. We’ve barely seen a day over 50ºF in the last three weeks. My spinach and lettuce seedlings are perpetually stuck at 3 inches tall. So I nearly cried last week when I opened my highly anticipated Hermit Creek Farm “spring kick-start” CSA box and found all the key players. Gorgeous ruby radish globes, tall perky scallions, and a head of soft, papery thin buttercrunch lettuce. I think I actually had to sit down and catch my breath.
Of course with every salad comes the conundrum of dressing. Typically I am not a creamy salad dressing sort of person. I’ll take a vinaigrette or even just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and coarse salt over a cream dressing almost any day. Mayonnaise and buttermilk hardly ever get involved. So it’s peculiar that my choice dressing for my proclaimed darling is cream. Almost pure cream. With just a splash of vinegar and pinch of sugar added. The sweet, tangy light cream makes a perfect shroud for spring lettuce. It’s creamy, but it’s delicate. It doesn’t overtake the greens – my number one rule with any dressing.
You remember Grandma Myrtle? Well this was her go to dressing. I learned about this sweet little concoction from my mom, years ago and almost by mistake when we were in the kitchen throwing together a salad. It’s one of those simple unwritten recipes that so easily could have been overlooked and lost. Fortunately it has found its way into one more kitchen. I come back to it every spring with the arrival of tender lettuce. And I always think of Myrtle bustling about in her farmhouse kitchen.
Farmhouse Cream Dressing
2-3 tablespoons cream
1-2 tablespoons vinegar (I use rice)
1-2 teaspoons sugar
fresh ground pepper
Mix together and adjust flavors to your liking. Serve over fresh greens.