As salads take their rightful place as a main course and not just a side dish, cooks are switching things up with local, fresh produce, and homemade vinaigrettes with diverse ingredients such as pickled jalapeno, wasabi or chopped ginger. "Warm, chilled, with or without lettuce. A base of grains instead, vegetables, fruits, cheese -- it all seems to be capable of being a salad," says cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan. "The trick is to balance the flavors, textures, and even colors so that the effect is pleasing -- not overpowering or confusing."
Chef Linton Hopkins offered less-traditional ideas for strawberries, including roasted strawberries and a preserve of strawberry and fennel. Another idea is a salad of strawberries, shrimp and country ham, with pesto and a citrus vinaigrette.
When well made, dishes centered on grains such as farro, brown rice, bulgur or spelt can be deeply flavorful as well as healthful. Quinoa salad with shiitakes, fennel and cashews can be varied by using different grains.
Pairing soups and salads that have complementary flavors is a great spring cooking option. This food writer comments on some ingredients that work well together when creating the class soup-salad combination. One recommendation is Leek and potato soup with Spinach and satsuma salad with orange-infused vinaigrette.
Quinoa, a food staple considered sacred by the Incas thousands of years ago, is experiencing a modern renaissance as a gluten-free grain, a complete protein and a versatile health food for use in breads, cereals and beverages. Shauna James Ahern offers quinoa recipes on her blog "Gluten-Free Girl," including a fruit-crumble topping with quinoa flakes, red quinoa topped with butternut squash, tofu and red peppers, and a summery quinoa salad with smoked salmon and capers.