Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its base, but in the winter the salad is definitely green.
The green salad I describe is inspired from the traditional Lesbos winter salad as I adapted it from the recipe in my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.
In the spring, though, we often add all kinds of edible wild flowers to the basic mix, plus any fragrant sprigs and leaves we find in the garden (scroll down for the VARIATION).
From the first October rains up until the end of April, the greengrocers of Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, used to sell each head of romaine lettuce tied together with two or three sprigs of borage (often with its little blue flowers), two or three scallions, several sprigs of peppery arugula, four or five sprigs of dill or fennel fronds, a few sprigs of peppery wild cress and either fresh mint or a little wild celery. Once home, these essential ingredients for the local green winter salad are thinly sliced and tossed with a simple vinaigrette.
For the spring version we often create “a multisensory food experience,” as Mind Body Green proposes. “When flavor, texture, appearance, fragrance, and beauty come together on your plate—the result is sheer culinary delight.”
About the very common, slightly bitter dandelion blossoms —Taraxacum officinale — we read that “the golden blossoms are nutritious edible flowers beloved by herbalists, gourmets, and culinary devotees alike. Their bioactive chemical compounds have been touted for diuretic, liver-supporting, and anti-inflammatory benefits, among others. Some research has even found the dandelion plant may increase Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two valuable types of probiotics associated with gut health, ” the article point out.
WORD of CAUTION: Not all flowers are edible; unless you are sure what exactly you are foraging, be careful because many flowers may be toxic!
Makes 4 servings
3–4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small head romaine lettuce, cored and leaves separated
1 bunch arugula, trimmed and finely chopped
3–4 sprigs watercress, finely chopped
3 scallions (white and most of the green parts), thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
3–4 sprigs fresh mint, tough stems removed, thinly sliced
3–4 sprigs borage, coarsely chopped (optional; see Note)
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and very finely chopped or grated
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
3-4 kumquat thinly sliced (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and plenty of pepper. Set aside.
Stack half the lettuce leaves, roll them up and cut crosswise into thin slices. Repeat with the remaining lettuce leaves. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce and other greens, scallions, dill, mint, borage (if using) and fennel.
Whisk the dressing again and pour it over the salad. Add salt to taste, toss, and sprinkle with the pine nuts and/or kumquat, if using.
Flowery Spring Green Salad
Omit the kumquat and pine nuts, and add all or any of the following flowers:
Also for their aroma the pink rose geranium, the purple rosemary blossoms and sprigs and of course the most spectacular and crunchy borage flowers, which unfortunately dry out early in the spring on Kea.