According to my Canadian friend, Victoria, “Spring salad is just that, what is in season. Add almost any green to any berry or fruit with zesty vinaigrette and voila…spring salad. For a cultural twist, add walnuts, wild berries, Saskatoon, choke cherries. You can google very basic homemade vinaigrette. There really isn’t any rule, just what looks and tastes good.”
If you are anything like me, constantly running here and there, the demands of daily life do not leave much time for the luxury of shopping for just the right ingredients or cooking fancy meals. You tend to get creative with blasé mundane items at the grocery store (if you have time to stop by the grocer at all). Usually, the recipe for the best Spring Salad for me is a bag of salad mix and a jar of chunky salsa…You guessed it, dump the jar of chunky salsa into the salad mix, add salt and a few grinds of pepper corn and there you have it.
In an imaginary world where I actually have time to spoil myself with the luxury of culinary delights, I went to the experts to get some ideas for a recipe for the best Spring Salad. I told them I wanted some cultural recipes for a Spring Salad and it had to be the best. My friend Rachel from Brazil said, “Gee, I’m sorry hun, can’t help you in this one… Only salad I really like is lettuce with tomatoes and carrots with olive oil, vinegar and salt haha.” When I asked her what she called it, she said “Salad…” The Portuguese word for salad is “Salada.” (Portuguese is the national language of Brazil).
My sister Tammie suggested a macaroni salad, My friend Sophie suggested a website that lists 29 different recipes for the best Spring Salad and my friend Gary’s fiancé, Debora, gave me her best recipe for a pea spring salad that she has been using for over 20 years…
While all of these sounded like yummy suggestions, I wanted something just a little more than that. I wanted a food that told a story about the people. For me, the whole concept of Spring is islandy, culturally rich-the smell of the salty beach in the wind that fluffs through your hair–the thought of the sweet zesty tingle of limes, coconuts and bananas in a salty bath of leafy greens and exotic flavors; the imagery of the people who live in these places dancing on your taste buds. It is, after-all, the imaginary world where I actually have time to prepare a recipe for the best Spring Salad and sit down to enjoy it, so why not do it up right, have fun and go all the way with it!
I knew I had to take it to the pros:
Sasha Martin, on her website Global Table Adventure has a couple of exciting recipes that I think would blend together quite nicely to make the best islandy Spring Salad.
The first is a recipe for Coconut Breaded Fish from the world’s third smallest independent nation, right behind the Vatican and Monaco, the Southern Pacific island of Nauru. The main export for Nauruans is phosphate. Unfortunately today, the phosphate from the tiny island has been all but diminished because of over-exploitation. It is amazing that anyone actually even found this tiny island that sits isolated in the middle of the southern Pacific, much less were able to inhabit it and exploit its resources-the island is so isolated that the language differs from any other indigenous southern Pacific language in existence. Nauru is heavily influenced by Asia and Australia using the Australian dollar for currency. There is little vegetation on the island but fish are abundant. Everything in Nauru is imported and Spam is a mainstay of the modern Nauruan diet. Nauru gained its independence in 1968 and is the world’s third smallest independent nation.
Nauru has little vegetation other than coconut palms and bananas, so we will use the best recipe for a Spring Salad, Green Papya Salad, from the nearby island of Vanuatu. The fish should be used as an entree item sliced, cubed or crumbled on top of the salad. You will need:
For the Fish
- 6 filets of Rockfish or Codfish
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup of breadcrumbs
- ½ cup of shredded unsweetened coconuts
- 1 egg
- Coconut oil
- 2 limes-sliced
- 10 inch frying pan
For the Salad
- 1 ½ lb shredded green papaya
- 1 bunch of sliced green onions
- 12 ounces of frozen shredded coconut (defrosted)
- 1 ½ cups of chopped peanuts
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
- Salt and pepper
Mix the ½ cup of bread crumbs with the ½ cup of shredded coconut on a plate. Salt and pepper your fish to taste. Break the egg into a dish and whisk quickly. Turn the stove on and add the coconut oil to the pan.
Dip the fish patties into the egg one at a time on both sides, and then smother the fish in the coconut batter. shake off the excess and gently cook for about 3 minutes on either side (or until golden brown).
Once the fish is nice and done, toss all of the salad ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Spread out the salad in equal parts onto the dinner guest’s plates, cut the fish into strips or cubes and set the portions on top of the salad.
You can also use chopped lettuce on the plate first, then place the Vanuatu Salad on top of the chopped lettuce and top it off with the stripped, cubed or crumbled fish.
Your guests are sure to exclaim “Tubwa!” (the Naurun word for “Thank you”) for this delightful Spring Salad treat.
The Second Idea for the Best Spring Salad comes from Malawi, a small country in East Africa.
Malawi is rich in fish and veggies but meat is expensive, so the natives eat either fish or veggies without any meat at all. During the 1500s, peanuts were introduced to the country and peanut butter has become a staple part of the Malawi diet. Women still cook in pots strung up on a tripod over an open fire. Children learn to cook at a very young age from their mothers as they are expected to help out with the entire process-including washing the dishes. It is said that the Malawians like to entertain visitors, even those who do not have a lot to share. The host proudly serves the guest first and then the father, then mother, with the children coming in last on the pecking order. Malawians, unlike most Westerners, use the leaves of their veggies as well as the veggie itself. Malawians are said to like the pumpkin leaves as much as the pumpkin itself. Here is a recipe for the best Spring Salad that you could get all the ingredients for from any household in Malawi.
Massaged Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seed Dressing:
Susan Voisin, on her vegan website makes a great argument for a massaged Kale Salad with sweet potatoes and pumpkin seed dressing.This is likely something you might find on the dinner table in Malawi when the husband gets home from a long day’s work. In Malawi, appetizers are called “Relishes” and the main course is called the “Starch.” Here is a recipe for the best Spring Salad that everyone can enjoy.
You Will Need:
- 1 large sweet potato
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce (or you can use honey if you prefer)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed and leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Seed Dressing
- 1 cup chili beans (drained and rinsed well)
- additional pumpkin seeds and chopped hot pepper
- additional dressing for drizzling
Preheat the grill. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into ½ inch thick rounds. Baste the sweet potatoes with the soy sauce (or you can substitute honey for the soy sauce). Sprinkle them with fresh ground black pepper and cook them on the grill until they are done, turning about every 10 minutes or so.
While the sweet potatoes are cooking, place the kale into a pan and add the pumpkin seed dressing. Massage the pumpkin seed dressing into the kale-the object is to soften the kale and reduce it by about 2/3s while rubbing the pumpkin seed dressing into the leaves. This will take a bit of doing so don’t be afraid to really rub this stuff. The point is to soften it up and reduce it, so don’t get nervous if it starts to look like it is wilting. That is what you want it to do.
Portion the kale onto four salad plates, put the sweet potatoes and chili beans onto the kale and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and chopped hot peppers. Salt to taste.
Recipe for the best Cherokee Guacamole Spring Salad:
The Cherokee people are right to be proud of their rich, colorful traditions and culture, boasting names like Sequoya-the guy who, for all purposes, was illiterate to the Phoenician writing system, but single-handedly devised a written language first for the Cherokee Nation and then for the entire North American Indigenous Tribes of peoples. Sequoya saw the Europeans reading and writing and instantly understood the value of this form of communication. At first he wanted to create a symbol for each word but later revised the system so that the symbols represented syllabic sounds instead of words. Sequoya’s alphabet consists of 85 symbols and his daughter was his first student. The tribal leaders were resistant to learning this system of writing at first and began to think that Sequoya was demon possessed. Once it caught on, it spread like wildfire. Sequoya’s system of writing is still in use today and might even be used by people like Susan Marie Smith-Kennedy to pass on a best recipe like this Guacamole Spring Salad to friends and future generations.
You will need:
- 1 medium chopped seedless tomato
- Ground black pepper
- 1 Table spoon lemon juice
- Goya Abado Seasoning (with cumino)
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 2 or 3 ripe avocados
- 2 or 3 Tomatillos
- 1 small onion
- ¼ finely chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- Shredded lettuce
Pit and crush your avocados and combine all the ingredients into a bowl. Make sure that the tomato does not have any seeds or pulp in it. You only want to use the meaty part of it and chop it up into small pieces. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is nice and cold.
Scatter the shredded lettuce in generous portions around the plate and place a generous portion of the guacamole in the center of the lettuce. Finish it off with crushed sea salt and freshly ground black pepper corns to taste.
You can switch up the lettuce in this recipe for the Best Cherokee Guacamole Spring Salad but it will change the flavor and texture of the dish.
Bon Appetite’! Try some of these recipes for the best Spring Salad and leave your comments in the comment section.