I was happy to comply with the request and considering all of the delicious garden produce at my disposal, it was an easy task to whip up a salad that was so colorful and attractive that some guests were actually hesitant to dig in and ruin this edible arrangement!
Turning an Ordinary Salad into a Popular Cookout Dish?
You’d be surprised how appearances and presentation will draw a crowd to a simple and healthy dish, even when it’s surrounded by tempting high calorie and fat laden picnic foods. Folks that would normally turn their noses up to a tossed salad at a cookout were making room for this attractive side dish.
This salad creation is being submitted as part of the Weekend Herb Blogging Group for September 9, 2007. I’ve contributed articles in the past featuring a fall garden production, heirloom eggplants, and even a sleazy piece on corn smut, but this is my first stab at anything that comes close to qualifying as an actual recipe. After all, I’m just a gardener with no aspirations of turning into a gourmet chef.
The foundation for this salad was a mix of organic lettuces and mesclun that unfortunately wasn’t harvested from the garden but was instead obtained from the local grocer. I also purchased a bag of baby spinach for this salad. All of the other ingredients were freshly picked from the beds of my organic heirloom garden.
Creating an Enticing and Ornamental Tossed Salad
Half of the greens were spread over the bottom of a large aluminum roasting pan and pressed down to compress them just a bit. Crisp cucumbers were partially peeled and then sliced to spread atop the fresh baby lettuces and other salad greens.
A generous sprinkling of a dried Italian herbs onto the cucumbers will add a touch of contrast as well as offer an enticing aroma that will continue to linger long after the salad has been served. Fresh herbs such as lovage, sage, thyme, rosemary, and borage can also be added in moderation for their intriguing scents and flavors that will leave everyone guessing about the identity of your secret ingredients.
A colorful combination of carrot sticks and strips of red, yellow, and orange heirloom peppers were scattered over the cucumbers and followed up with a medley of yellow Sungold, pale Blondkopfchen, and ordinary red cherry tomatoes. I prefer to use cherry tomato varieties in tossed salads for the convenience and because they will keep the entire affair much crisper and soggy-free.
The Perfect Garnish for a Beautiful Salad
Next I repeated the entire process with another layer of lettuces and greens topped by more cucumbers, dried or fresh herbs, carrots, colorful heirloom peppers, and an assortment of cherry tomatoes.
To finish off and crown my organic garden salad creation, I topped it off with a garnish of edible flowers. In this case I used nasturtiums, which are blooming all over the garden in a range of bright colors. The nasturtiums enhance the salads appearance and bring a mild flavor to the table.
While I was collecting the edible nasturtium flowers from the garden I also noticed a few garlic chive herb plants that just happened to be showing off their own clusters of white blossoms. These stronger tasting flowers are also edible with a distinctly garlic-like flavor. They found their way onto the top of the salad placed inside a few sliced bell pepper rings.
There are all sorts of edible flowers that will make a perfect addition to dress up a tossed garden salad. Other candidates include; spicy purple chive blooms, tiny blue borage flowers, crunchy snap bean blossoms, and many other edible vegetable and herb flowers that are available for the picking.
Serving up a Tasty Work of Art from the Garden
No oils or dressings were used in preparing this salad, a basic balsamic vinaigrette was offered on the side but you’d be surprised by the number of people who enjoyed this salad without any added oil or salad dressing. The salad can be lightly tossed to mix the ingredients before serving if desired.
That’s it for a quick and easy garden salad that can function as a table centerpiece, in addition to a delicious and healthful side dish at your next outing or family gathering.
Despite the frequent comments that were overheard of… “Ohhh, that salad is just too pretty to eat”… by the end of the day it was obvious that my family enjoyed doing more than just look at this colorful salad that was constructed fresh from my organic, heirloom garden!
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