leaves please

Did I mention that I’ve been writing some pieces for iVillage Canada? I’m basically just daydreaming about things I like to eat and how I like to prepare them. At least once a year, around this time, I go a little nuts for lettuces. Yes. Leaves. Which sounds so boring and is actually so exciting, if you get to have really good leaves, picked very recently. If that’s a new thing for you, get yourself to a local market, buy any leaves you’d liked, picked that morning, hopefully, and try them before you dismiss me as a nerd prone to exaggeration. I am both of those things, but I’m also right in this case.

Aside from gushing about leaves, I shared some salad ideas with them too, which I thought you might like to see here too…

Creamy kale salad, similar to a Caesar salad, is something I’ve been making and tweaking for weeks now. If you mince or smash a clove of garlic and let it sit in some extra-virgin olive oil while you prepare everything else, it will infuse just the right amount of flavour. Strain the garlic out before pureeing the oil with some soft goat cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper for the creamiest, pale dressing to toss the kale leaves in. Top with any roasted nuts and some black olives–but I have a new spin on this salad that I’ll share with you here very soon. My favourite version yet.

Years ago, I made a vegetarian spin of a famous Jamie Oliver salad — his used prosciutto; mine uses Niçoise olives. Toss a mess of young arugula with a honey, lemon and black pepper dressing, add large basil leaves, quartered figs and torn, fresh mozzarella or bocconcini. It’s an entertaining-worthy salad that will have you licking the bowl, a conundrum I’ll let you sort out.

That great, green, leafy lettuce that I was gushing about hardly needs any primping if you’re a fan like me. At most, I make a dressing that’s 3-to-1 extra-virgin olive oil to vinegar, seasoned well. I’ve read that salt that sits in vinegar for a few minutes dissolves better into dressings, so that’s what I do. A dab of mustard will help emulsify the vinaigrette, but the rule is that you must whisk the oil into the vinegar in a slow stream, not just shake a jar of your dressing really hard. (Do as I say, not as I do!)

Some advice on storing these leafy greens: They are delicate and have a limited life once picked, that’s just how it is. When I get mine home I rinse them well, and then soak them in a lot of cold water. I lift them – trying not to disturb any dirt that sunk to the bottom – then I spin the leaves or lay them out on clean dish towels to dry completely. Getting them dry is key: dressing clings to dry leaves and if you’re storing them for a day or two, dry leaves wrapped in some paper towels before being sealed in large plastic bags or containers will be just as beautiful as the day you bought them.