I love salads. Almost every day as I water the newest seedlings in my garden and tend to the older plants, I raid our wild arugula patch for a handful of fiery spicy leaves of unadorned arugula to munch on. Crunchy kale salads, sweet crisp butter lettuce, and mixed baby greens are my favorites, but done right, I will even cavort with plain Jane (and nutritionally devoid) iceberg lettuce.
But then, beyond the fresh lettuces one has Burmese tea leaf salads with crunchy garlic chips, peanuts, fried lentils, lemon juice, shrimp powder, sesame seeds, and jalepeños. (Swoon. I could eat that one every day.)
One of my favorite Italian salads, as prepared by my family in the Piemonte region is “valeriana,” a longer type of mache lettuce, with fresh tomini cheese, lavender-thyme sea salt, and several healthy glugs of divine olive oil.
Another friend makes a phenomenal Ecuadorian salad with tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice (at least that is how I re-enact something she made for us a couple of years ago).
I could write a salad manifesto.
Kids, on the other hand, typically disagree on the boon that is salad. While my vegetarian five-year old luckily adores salad, my carnivorous three-year old has taken some major convincing. Two weeks ago we picked up a couple of bags of purslane at the Alemany Farmer’s market from Two Dog Organic Farm. We grew some as well, but it has already gone to flower. Wanting to make sure that my kids (well the solid food eating ones anyways) at least tried it, I concocted a phenomenal and simple salad that I have since made twice more.
Yes, yes, the pan-fried sea salted almonds are scrumptious and the purslane’s fresh, citrus-like crunch is divine, but what really gets a non-salad eater to try this (or any new salad green) is the salt and pepper honey dressing. The Gateway Dressing.
For those who insist on a recipe, I will include it below, but really it is simply a matter of mixing 1 part honey to two parts extra virgin olive oil and whisking it together with either kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle it over an arugula and fig salad with a nice Bulgarian feta or Pt Reyes Blue. Try it on bitter greens or finely shredded brassica leaves (any kale, really). Add a little freshly roasted and ground cumin and some cayenne and one has a great carrot salad dressing. And while it is terrific with a cheap pasteurized honey, it is over-the-top with a floral raw honey like orange blossom or lavender.
As a rule of thumb, kids (and um, adults) love fatty, salty, and sweet so you get a punch of all three with the honey dressing. Maybe Marion Nestle will come after me with obesity statistics, but I think it is great to melt some butter or add some olive oil and salt on steamed vegetables if it enables kids to eat more of them.
Purslane Salad with Pan-Fried Almonds and Honey Dressing
1 bunch purslane
20-30 raw almonds
Olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey (preferably floral scented)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Break the purslane into bite friendly sprigs. Heat the olive oil and the almonds in a pan until the smell toasted, take on a golden brown color, and some of them begin to pop like popcorn. Do not burn them. Remove to a paper towel and let excess oil drip off. Sprinkle with sea salt. Whisk together the 2 tablespoons e.v.o.o. and the 1 tablespoon honey with salt and copious pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the purslane and finish with the salted almonds on top.