When is a salad not just a salad? When it’s served in vessels one usually reserves for other uses, such as vases, beverage glassware, or even small clay pots.
One of my favorite presentations, created for my latest cookbook, Celebrating Home, is a layered salad “trifle” served in a square glass container no doubt designed to hold flowers or votive candles.
As I layer salad greens, arugula, shredded red cabbage, sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and other ingredients into the containers, the salad becomes a piece of edible art to delight my guests from an artistic, taste, and textural perspective.
With the arrival of springtime, and Easter quickly approaching, warmer weather and cool, refreshing breezes signify a welcome return to outdoor dining, table settings infused with color, and menus featuring lighter fare.
I’m excited by salads that celebrate this change of season and the availability of just-harvested baby greens, ripe, juicy berries, and tender spears of asparagus.
As I think back to Easter dinners I’ve served over the years, one stands out.
The dining table was draped in a white, cutwork cloth, and set with my grandmother’s china, our wedding crystal, silver flatware, and pastel linen napkins.
My collection of bunnies, chicks, and panorama sugar eggs formed a whimsical centerpiece, but it was the salad course that stole the show that day. Each salad plate was nestled on a bed of pastel Easter grass. As I served our guests, there were oohs and aahs in appreciation of this unexpected holiday accent.
Everyone loved the succulent leg of lamb studded with fresh garlic, rosemary, and leaves of mint, the roasted potatoes, and tender asparagus that followed, but it was the artistry of the salad course guests talked about at the conclusion of the meal.
My recipe for Springtime Berry Salad with Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette is equally impressive for spring and summer meals.
Arranged on a large platter or as individual salads, crisp green leaf lettuce is topped with sliced strawberries and plump blackberries, crumbled feta cheese, and an artistically twisted orange slice.
Drizzled with a refreshing citrus and honey vinaigrette, this flavorful combination of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors, partnered with crisp greens and juicy berries, creates an explosion of seasonal taste sensations.
Springtime Berry Salad With Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette
1 bunch green leaf lettuce, washed and spun dry
1 pint strawberries, rinsed
½ pint blackberries, rinsed
2 large oranges, rinsed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of kosher or sea salt
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces and divide it among four salad plates. Reserve four large strawberries for garnish. Hull and slice the remaining strawberries and scatter them over the salads greens, along with the whole blackberries.
Slice one of the oranges crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices, cut a slit halfway through each orange slice, twist, and place one in the center of each salad. Slice the remaining orange in half, and using a strainer to catch seeds and pulp, squeeze ¼ cup juice into a small mixing bowl. Add honey, stir well, and whisk in the olive oil, black pepper, and salt.
Drizzle each salad with vinaigrette and garnish with feta cheese and one of the reserved whole strawberries.
Yield: Four servings
Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks, a public television chef on PBS stations nationwide, and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit her website at christyrost.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.