Each April 22 since 1970 in the United States, and since 1990 around the world, people have observed the holiday known as Earth Day. Originally conceived as a "teach-in" about environmental issues, held on college campuses, the early-springtime event has evolved into a broader celebration of the many ways in which we all can be more aware of, and take better care of, our planet.
Of course, food will be the focus of my own Earth Day celebration with my family. And what more perfect way could there be to enjoy the earth's bounty than to make a fresh, delicious salad featuring seasonal greens?
I love to eat salads at any time of year, but especially in springtime. There's no healthier, more delicious way I know to start a meal than with a chilled plate or bowl piled high with fresh, colorful, crisp, and tender leaves and other vegetables, complemented by a vinaigrette or other quickly prepared, brightly seasoned dressing. Salads excite the appetite without overwhelming it, leaving you ready to enjoy the rest of the meal that follows. Yet, they also help fill you up while providing important nutrients, playing a role in successful weight maintenance and vibrant health.
One of my favorite things to do on a weekend morning, especially at this time of year, is to take my sons shopping at the farmers' market for fresh greens and other springtime vegetables to include in our salads. With good health in mind, for both my family and the planet, I always try to buy organic salad ingredients grown without use of chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers. It always delights me to see how many different choices we have: crispy lettuces like iceberg and Romaine; tender ones like butter or limestone lettuce; peppery watercress; pleasantly bitter arugula, curly or Belgian endive, and radicchio; and so much more. Of course, I like to include fresh herbs for even more flavor. And usually there's a stall that offers organic, pesticide-free edible flowers to add bright bursts of color and their own particular fragrances.
With such a range of options, there's no end to the number of simple salads you can compose. And that variety grows even broader when you consider how many basic dressings you can make simply by combining various oils, flavorful vinegars, and other seasonings ranging from herbs and spices to minced garlic or shallots, sweet and mellow honey to pungent mustard. (Take care to dress the salad just before serving, tossing it well with only enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly.)
By way of example, I'm including two of my favorite recipes here to get your started. Try one this Earth Day, and have fun composing your own fresh salads throughout the spring and summer.
SIMPLE SPRING SALAD WITH MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
1 teaspoon Dion mustard
(c) 2012 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.