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posted: 6/13/2014 5:45 AM

Move over Mom: Summer salad that's light on greens, big on flavor

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  • Cucumbers and carrots add crunch to a summer salad.

      Cucumbers and carrots add crunch to a summer salad.
    Deborah Pankey | Staff Photographer

By Jerome Gabriel

When you think of salad, do you think just leafy greens? Or do you think a masterpiece of all different colors from the lightest of yellow to the darkest of green?

When I think of salads I think of a beautiful creation of fresh vegetables. I don't like a salad that's too heavy on lettuce and too light on other ingredients -- the lettuce is just kind of a plate filler and something for the dressing to cling to. When I make a salad I like carrots, cucumbers, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas); I like the crunch of carrots and the squish of garbanzo beans.

The greens that I think are essential in a salad are spinach, occasionally kale and romaine lettuce. I find iceberg lettuce awkward because it's not as easy to separate the leaves as romaine.

Now, let's talk about dressing. I like a dressing that complements the salad itself. Blue cheese dressing doesn't go with a salad that is too delicate in taste, and, on the other hand, light vinaigrette will get lost in a salad that has too many vivid ingredients.

I made this salad the other night for dinner and used dressing that we had leftover from Portillo's; everybody liked it, except my little brother who didn't even care to try it. I found a copycat recipe online. The recipe said to make it in a food processor, but it's easier to just shake the ingredients in a jar. The honey explains why I like it so much.

A word from Mom: Growing up we almost always had salad for dinner and that salad almost always consisted of iceberg lettuce, carrot shavings, green onion and croutons. Gosh how I grew to hate iceberg lettuce.

Since then I've learned that the darker the greens, the denser the nutrient profile so I've all but banished iceberg lettuce from my kitchen in favor of spinach, kale and arugula. I use darker greens in concert with romaine to balance the bitter taste. If your family has been hesitant to try kale, add a few chopped leaves to this salad and they'll start to get used to it.

Jerome Gabriel, who will be a high school freshman in the fall, has been helping in the kitchen since he could hold a spoon. His mom is Daily Herald Food Editor Deborah Pankey.

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