If you try to eat locally and by the season, you know that the bookends of the growing season in Ohio – spring and fall – bring an abundance of greens. Spinach, kale, lettuces, collards, cabbage and bok choy are all available locally this time of year. What can you do with all of those greens without becoming burnt out on salads?
Some greens, like kale, spinach, collards and bok choy, can be sautéed or stir fried for a tasty meal. You can also steam or blanch greens like kale, spinach or collards and add them to soups, stews or casseroles.
Leaf lettuces, on the other hand, lend themselves well to salads, sandwiches and wraps. Kale and spinach also make good bases for salads.
This time of year, I like to use locally available greens to prep lunches for the week. I take five plastic containers, one for each day of the workweek, and fill them about halfway with a salad green. While washing and dividing the greens, I cook a grain like rice, pasta or quinoa in a quantity large enough to add a portion to each salad container. I also cook a protein like salmon, chicken or lentils, or I open, drain and rinse a can of beans. Once all the components of the salad are ready, I build my lunches by adding portions of the grain and protein to the pre-portioned greens, topping them with dressing – either homemade or store-bought – and other ingredients like chopped vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or beets), cheese, nuts and/or fruit.
One of my favorite spring salads is an adapted version of this baby kale breakfast salad with strawberries and quinoa, which is great this time of year because strawberries are also in season! I add blue cheese and chicken in place of the pepitas for more protein, and also because I like the pairing of strawberries and cheese. If you don’t like blue cheese, you could add feta or goat cheese crumbles instead.
A tip to keep in mind when making kale salad is to massage the dressing into the kale leaves instead of simply tossing the ingredients together. Rubbing an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice into the leaves helps break down enzymes, which minimizes the bitter taste of raw kale. Enzymes are also broken down in cooking, which is why sauteed or steamed kale doesn’t taste as bitter as raw kale.
Do you have a favorite spring salad? Let us know by commenting in the box below!