There must be a special month for just about everything; I recently heard that May was National Salad Month! I must admit that I have a new favorite salad.
When we think about salad bars in cafeterias, restaurants and buffets, probably the most "typical" salad is the standard iceberg lettuce, chopped up with a choice of dressings- usually French, Thousand Island or Ranch. Many of us have eaten and served this traditional salad many times and for many years, but lately there have been some new and popular choices when it comes to salad greens. And I must admit, that these darker green and more flavorful varieties have become my new favorites for a salad.
I think my favorite salad now is strawberry spinach salad with either a poppy seed dressing or a raspberry vinaigrette. And to add a tasty crunch, a few toasted nuts is the new bacon bits! There isn't much of a recipe and it's quick to fix this salad- just get some fresh spinach and cut up some fresh strawberries and put them in a bowl, drizzle the dressing over the top and sprinkle on a few nuts. There are lots of varieties of salad dressings that are available for purchase, but if you want to make a homemade poppy seed dressing, combine 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 tbsp white or balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp poppy seeds, 1 tbsp finely chopped or grated onion and 1/4 tsp paprika. Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it well. Refrigerate for one hour and shake to mix before using.
There are lots of other options when it comes to salad greens too, besides iceberg lettuce and spinach. There are packages of mixed greens that are easy to use and ready to go. Or you can buy the fresh greens separately. Some of the different names of good salad greens are: arugula, butterhead, leaf, radicchio and romaine. Generally speaking, the darker green or red the leaves, the more concentrated the vitamins and minerals are in the product. They are also good sources of fiber, which is important too.
So now, since it is National Salad Month, would be a great time to try some of those new greens and see if they don't strike your fancy too. And if you're planning to plant your garden soon, try some new salad greens to add some variety to your salads all summer long. Time to go green!
(Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.)