This is one of my favorite salads. I know how that sounds (Yeah, I know this really cool woman – she has a favorite salad!), but does it help if I tell you that I have only 4 favorite salads? I like plenty of other salads, but this is one of the ones I love. It’s more exciting than your standard issue “lettuce and friends” salad, and is perfect for a little showing off at dinner parties or in your bid to be queen of the new barbecue side salads.
Clockwise from left: watercress, mint, flatleaf parsley, arugula
I grew up with iceberg lettuce and tomato salads slathered in Wishbone Italian dressing for any occasion that required a salad. This salad shows my enormous growth. I didn’t know what arugula was until I was in my early 20’s looking for rocket for a pasta recipe that was part of my branching out. It was a frustrating search until someone at the market told me that rocket and arugula are the same thing. Watercress was only ever something on little sandwiches in British period films until I had it pureed in a soup at a restaurant – not bad. Similar to arugula, it’s a peppery little green (I still don’t get the sandwich thing). Mint, well, mint was for mint chip ice cream until I had tabbouleh for the first time (which some will take issue with depending on where your tabbouleh originates, I know). Parsley is the only green in this salad that made appearances in my childhood by way of my mom’s side of the family in Poland, sprinkled generously on soups and vegetables alongside it’s better half, dill.
The dressing for the salad is something special, too. It is so bright with lemon and mint, and luckily, the recipe for it leaves you with leftovers; so you have enough for another salad, another day. This salad is a giver. Enjoy!
Spring herb salad with mint vinaigrette
Adapted from the New York Times recipes for avocado fattoush with mint vinaigrette
For the vinaigrette
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (usually 1 large lemon will do)
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 garlic clove pressed or very finely minced (you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon minced shallot)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can substitute grapeseed oil, but the flavor will be dulled some)
10 mint leaves (choose the larger leaves)
For the salad
2 Persian cucumbers (these are virtually seedless and much smaller than your average cucumber)
1/2 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley (a.k.a. Italian parsley)
2 ounces arugula (about 2 handfuls)
2 ounces watercress (this is usually the top of one bunch as they are sold at most markets as I’ve seen them – see foursquare picture above)
Optional: Crumbled feta, sumac powder
Make the dressing: Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a mini prep or blender. Pulse until combined. If you don’t have a mini prep or blender, chop the mint into very small pieces and shake all of the ingredients up in a closed jar or give them a good whisk in a small bowl.
Make the salad: Combine the mint, arugula, parsley, and watercress in a bowl. Lightly toss.
Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Next, cut side down, slice ~1/4 inch pieces. Add to the salad.
Slice the avocado into ~1/2 inch chunks. Add to the salad.
Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over your salad and toss. Add more to taste if needed.
Optional: Top with crumbled feta and sumac.
The optional ingredients are pretty good and the cheese helps make for a more filling salad if you’re looking for something heartier.