Bring leafy greens to life with the power of herbs
“Salad refreshes without enfeebling, and fortifies without irritating … It renews one’s youth,” wrote Brillat-Savarin, author of Physiolgie du gout, the Physiology of Taste, published in 1825.
Indeed, a well-composed salad can lift energy and enhance vitality, especially if it’s made with nourishing varieties of plant sources like vegetables, herbs, nuts, fruit, grains and legumes. The possibilities are endless.
Served before the main course, a salad can stimulate the appetite. Bitter flavors are a sure way to make the digestive system receptive to food. Add dandelion leaves, red radicchio and cabbage, young collard greens, Belgian endive, Treviso, arugula or cruciferous sprouts to a green salad. A quick warm sauté of young collard, kale or Friese leaves on the side accomplishes the same. A chilled melon salad with mint refreshes and cools.
Add herbs by the fistful
Herbs bring specific flavors to salads and dressings. Chop homegrown herbs from your garden and add them fresh, by the fistful, to a lettuce salad. Chives, chervil, lovage, dill, fennel, tarragon, bee balm, lemon balm, salad burnet and mint all lend themselves well to embellishing your salad.
• Mint is refreshing and a friend to many summer dishes. Mix it into fruit bowls, pasta, grain and green salads.
• Traditional tabbouleh salad is made with bulgur, tomatoes, onion, mint and lots of finely chopped parsley, all dressed with a bright mix of lemon and oil.
• Serve an all-herb salad such as tarragon and chopped fennel bulb with grilled chicken.
• Use a sage-heavy blend for roast pork.
• Serve parsley, shallot and mint with grilled lamb.
• With duck, try adding beets and chervil with orange sections.
• Salad burnet grows in a mound and produces small leaves that taste like cucumber. It’s the perfect alternative for those who like the flavor but find cucumber does not agree with them. Plus, it doesn’t have all that water that can make dishes soggy.
• Enjoy watercress alone or with other greens like lettuce.
• Vichy is a mixture of lettuces, watercress, escarole, chicory and fine herbs dressed with oil and vinegar. Pretty, edible flowers like bergamot, borage, Calendula, chives, nasturtium, rose petals and violets can be added on the side for beauty.
Include herbs in dressings
Herbs can infuse their tastes into all kinds of salad dressings. Some pointers include:
• Marry the herbs’ aromatic essential oils with your high-quality salad oils.
• Stir chopped dill weed into a mayonnaise-based potato salad dressing.
• Add chopped garlic and Italian seasoning for a Mediterranean flair for any pasta salad
• Infuse rosemary, sage, paprika and garlic in olive oil to drizzle on croutons
Infuse vinegars with herbs
It’s easy to make your own herb-infused vinegars. Directions for making flavored vinegars vary, but here are the basic steps:
Start with a very clean, non-reactive container, like glass.
Use a very generous quantity of herbs and cover them with the vinegar you have chosen.
Close the container tightly, and let it sit out of direct light for about a week.
Taste it to determine whether it’s flavorful enough.
You can strain out the vinegar and add additional seasoning and herbs for more concentrated flavor.
Let it sit another week.
Strain out the spent herbs and bottle in attractive containers.
Ensure the vinegar is free of harmful bacteria (some recipes call for boiling the vinegar and herbs together for a sterile mixture).
The shelf life is usually between three and six months.
Try these herb-infused vinegar combinations
Apple Cider Vinegar
• garlic and dill
• tarragon, chives, lemon balm
• mustard, garlic, red pepper
White Wine Vinegar
• basil, chives, garlic, dill
• rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, fennel, citrus zest, ginger
• lemon verbena, chive, parsley
• sage, shallots, cilantro, oregano, garlic, hot pepper
Red Wine Vinegar
• oregano, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, bee balm
• ginger, clove, mustard, cumin, tarragon, mint, garlic
Besides herbs, consider adding fruits and spices to vinegars. Raspberries and orange with cinnamon, clove, rosemary and mint would be a taste sensation!
Herbalist Merry Lycett Harrison owns SLC-based Millcreek Herbs. In addition to offering classes in medicinal herbs, culinary herbs and herb gardening, she leads summertime herb trips in the wild. To learn more, visit MillcreekHerbs.com.
A Taste of Cinegrill
By Kate Pappas
Few eateries can boast being open as long as Cinegrill. For 70 years, the Salt Lake City Italian restaurant was a downtown staple known for its pasta, pizza and occasional live piano music. Having moved several times throughout its history, the restaurant closed its doors for good in 2016, due in part to having difficulty in obtaining a liquor license at a new location.
The corned beef sandwich and lasagna were standouts on Cinegrill’s menu, but the tossed green salad, adorned by the famous house dressing, is perhaps most missed by patrons.
Fortunately, not all is lost and the dressing recipe—featuring olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, capers, ground tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese—lives on, having been inherited (and closely guarded) by third-generation Cinegrill servers, sisters Terrie Farmer and Connie O’very. The sisters began selling the savory and tangy dressing to the public more than a year ago, after friends and former customers continued to express their longing for the one-of-a-kind concoction.
Since then, people throughout Utah and in neighboring states have been making the pilgrimage for the dressing—sold by the pint for $9.25—for a nostalgic and delicious taste of the restaurant’s past. What the dressing is not sold in stores, you can purchase by contacting the vendors via Facebook.
Cinegrill Salad Dressing, Terrie Farmer: