I am certainly not the first one, or the last one to say this, but Instagram has had a huge impact on our food culture, and the most obvious result is our supposed obsession with extreme food. By extreme food, I mean food that’s main objective is to be visually overwhelming.
On one end of the spectrum is the unhealthy, over the top junk food: why have a bloody mary, when you can have a bloody mary with a grilled cheese sandwich as a garnish? Why have a soft serve ice cream, when you have a soft serve ice cream covered in cotton candy and sugar cereal? On the other end of the spectrum, is the extreme healthy food – the smoothie bowls which are more toppings than smoothie, the salads which are so loaded with vegetables they are literally pouring over the sides. It’s not good enough to have a bowl of vegetables – you have to have ALL the vegetables. All the superfood toppings. Food is only good insofar as it can be documented in its excess. It’s a game we play of continuously needing to one-up ourselves.
Fundamentally, whether its junk or virtuous, this food culture has resulted in a lot of mediocre results. When the focus is on adding more and more, no individual components can shine, and often this is used to cover up cheap ingredients, or bad cooking. But it’s more than that for me: I find this food culture exhausting, and frankly useless for the home cook. Who has the time or energy to put together such ridiculous creations on a regular basis? I would so much rather spend my time at a farmers market, picking out a few stellar seasonal ingredients when they’re at their peak – and let them shine. So here is a salad almost entirely of ingredients from my garden and the farmer’s market. It’s about celebrating the sweet delight of those first strawberries, the subtle bite of that green garlic, and the incredible freshness of real lettuce, grown close to home (or if you’re me, grown at home). There is nothing extreme about it, but I think it’s a beautiful in it’s simplicity.
strawberry, asparagus and radish greens salad with creamy green garlic dressing
Dressing adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook.
Serves 4 as a sidedish
Note: you can absolutely use spring onions in place of the green garlic (in fact that’s whats pictured above), but I like the flavor of green garlic, and am always looking for fun ways to use it when it comes up at the farmers market.
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives (+ some chive blossom petals if you have them)
- 1/4 cup chopped herbs – mint and basil
- 4-5 cups mixed greens (I used lettuces, arugula, and some baby kale)
- 4 oz of asparagus, woody ends removed
- 1 cup strawberries, destemmed and quartered or halved, depending on size
- ½ cup whole walnuts
- 5-6 radishes, quartered or halved depending on size
- ½ avocado, chopped into cubes (optional)
Creamy green garlic dressing
- 2.5 tablespoons of crème fraiche
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar)
- 1 piece of green garlic, whites and light greens chopped
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Prepare asparagus: in a steamer over a small amount of lightly boiling water, steam whole asparagus for about 5 minutes with the lid on, until the veg is just starting to get tender. Remove, and put the asparagus in the fridge (or freezer) to cool to room temp quickly, then chop into 2 inch pieces
- Toast the walnuts in a pan on the stove until fragrant. Set aside to cool
- Make dressing: in a blender or food processor, blend together all the ingredients except the olive oil. Once it’s come together (and there are no visible chunks of green garlic) drizzle in the olive oil while running on a low speed, until combined. Taste for salt and pepper, more vinegar etc, and season further if needed. Pour into a bowl or dressing-appropriate vessel and set aside
- Put together salad: layer on greens, strawberries, asparagus, radishes, chopped avocado, chopped basil, mint + chives and walnuts. Either dress in the bowl or each person can dress their own.