Unique Spring Greens

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These salads serve up a bounty of seasonal goodness

New-to-you salads! Do we need to tell you that salads are good for you? Probably not! But you still may not eat them as often as you should. If boredom is the reason, here are lettuces to make you leap for joy. These unique greens are in peak season all spring and will likely be nestled in your community-supported agriculture box or at farmers markets. Go salad bowl crazy!


Grilled Avocado and Bacon Salad

Yield: 4 servings

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 (16-ounce) package arugula
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
¼ cup lemon juice
8 slices applewood bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat the grill to medium and lightly brush the grates with vegetable oil. Brush 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on the avocados and sprinkle evenly with half of the salt and pepper. Place the avocados on the grill with the cut side down. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Cool 1 minute and cut into thin slices. Meanwhile, divide the arugula among serving plates, and top evenly with the tomatoes and onions. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper with the juice, shaking to emulsify. Drizzle over each salad and top with the avocados and bacon. Serve immediately.


Pear and Watercress with Walnut Vinaigrette

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 bunches watercress
3 pears, peeled and sliced
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Place the vinegar, garlic, mustard, olive oil, walnut oil, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to emulsify. Divide the watercress among salad plates, and arrange the pear slices on top. Shake the dressing again and drizzle over each salad. Top with the walnuts, and serve immediately.


Grilled Radicchio Salad with Feta

Yield: 4 servings

2 heads radicchio
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup crumbled feta or blue cheese

Preheat the grill to medium-high and lightly brush the grates with vegetable oil. Meanwhile, cut the radicchio in quarters, making sure to leave a bit of the core so it will hold together. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place on the grill with the cut side down. Cook 3 minutes on each side.

Place on a large platter and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Top with the cheese, and serve immediately.


Romaine with Warm Brie Dressing

Yield: 6 servings

1 cup dry white wine
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ cup panko
1 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
1 (4-ounce) package Brie, diced
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 hearts romaine lettuce, halved

Place the wine, shallots, garlic and vinegar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, lace the panko on a jellyroll pan and place under a low broiler for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the cream to the reduction and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and add the Brie, stirring until melted. Add the lemon zest, salt and pepper; and remove from the heat.

Place each romaine half on a serving plate. Drizzle with the warm dressing and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.


Chopped Grilled Salad with Blue Cheese Crumbles

Yield: 6 servings

4 heads Belgian endive, halved
3 radicchio heads, halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Place the endive and radicchio in a large bowl and set aside. Place the vinegar, garlic, shallots, oil, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well to emulsify. Pour over the greens and let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Drain the greens very well, reserving the dressing (too much vinaigrette will cause a flare-up). Grill the greens 2 minutes per side and let cool.

When cool enough to handle, chop the greens, discarding the cores. Drizzle with the reserved vinaigrette and add the blue cheese. Toss and serve warm.


Frisee and Dried Fig Dressing

Yield: 6 servings

1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 dried figs, diced
1½ cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large heads frisee
½ cup shaved Parmesan

Place the shallots, garlic, figs and wine in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Cook 5 minutes and transfer to a blender. Add the vinegar and oil, and puree until smooth. Season with the salt and pepper and return to the saucepan. Place over low heat.

Divide the frisee among salad plates. Drizzle evenly with the warm dressing, and top with the shaved Parmesan. Serve immediately.

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About Author

Tammy Algood

Originally from Starkville, Miss., Tammy Algood is a viticulture and wholesale produce specialist for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Market Development Division. She has a Bachelor’s of Science from Mississippi State University and a Master’s from Middle Tennessee State University. She writes about food for The Tennessean and monthly for The Tennessee Magazine. As the spokesperson for the statewide “Pick Tennessee Products” campaign, Tammy also develops recipes for their website at www.picktnproducts.org. Broadcast appearances include Nashville’s local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates as well as statewide on PBS. Tammy can also be seen nationally on the HGTV and DIY networks.

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