It’s finally feeling like summer here in Vermont and I know after a long winter (and a long cold spring!) I always crave that first truly fresh salad of the season – chock-full of delicious mixed greens. From arugula to watercress, baby lettuces to spinach, there is a type of green for every palate all packed with flavor and nutrition.
A Brief History of Mixed Greens
The varieties that we typically see in mixed greens – arugula, spinach, endive, baby romaine and bibb lettuces – mostly originated around the Mediterranean. In fact, the consumption of mixed lettuces in what we would consider ‘salad’ dates back to the time of the ancient the Greek and Romans. That being said, the use of mixed greens in their young and tender form as we know them today originated in Provence, France as mesclun.
In the region of Provence, mixed greens are a common accompaniment to a meal. Sometimes they are tossed with dressing or just placed on the plate as-is. Either way their simplicity as well as their depth of flavor shine. They are abundant at the well-known outdoor markets of Provence and may include the standard mix of lettuces as well as interesting varietals like frisée, dandelion, mâche, and chervil. Some believe that mesclun was first grown and used outside of the Provencal city of Nice where coincidentally, one of the most well-known salads in the world was also invented.
The Most Famous Salad in the World
Niҫoise salad (or salade Niҫoise in France) began as a humble combination of tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil, but has morphed into a composed salad typically made with tomatoes, hardboiled egg, Niҫoise olives, anchovies and a simple dressing of olive oil served over greens. Traditionalists will contend that no cooked ingredients should be included, but versions often include boiled potatoes, green beans, artichokes or tuna as well as other raw vegetables. No matter the version, Niҫoise salad is now popular all over the world and is often hailed as the magnum opus of salads.
This Month’s Recipe
While we’re on the topic of salads, let’s switch gears to this month’s recipe which prominently features mixed greens. Topped with creamy goat cheese, sweet and crunchy candied pecans and a tangy honey mustard vinaigrette, this salad is very tasty while offering balanced nutrition with protein, healthy fats, fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals. Depending on the type of greens used, this salad could be more spicy (arugula) or mild (spinach or baby lettuces). Bring it to a summer BBQ or potluck to share or serve with grilled chicken for a quick and easy complete meal.
For more on mixed greens including recipes, interesting facts, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website.
Mixed Green Salad with Pecans, Goat Cheese, and Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
- 4ozpecans, whole
- 1Tbspbutter, melted
- 1Tbspbutter, melted
- 3/4cupolive oil
- 1/4cupbalsamic vinegar
- 2Tbsphoney mustard
- 1clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1/4tspred pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4ozgoat cheese
- 1/4cupsweetened dried cranberries
- 1red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-2 inch thin slices
- Preheat oven to 300° F.
- Put the pecans in a bowl, sprinkle the melted butter over them, and toss until they are all well coated with butter. Then sprinkle the pecans with sugar and gently toss again until they are lightly coated.
- Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper and spread the coated pecans out over it in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to touch.
- Place the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey mustard, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes in a jar, cover and shake until the dressing is well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place the salad greens and spinach in a large bowl. Add the goat cheese, dried cranberries, red bell pepper, and pecans. Toss with 1/4 cup of the dressing. Serve immediately. Chill remaining dressing.
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center.