With all the salad greens and lettuces springing up in food stores today, there's no excuse for a boring salad.
Bring home those funky greens that restaurant chefs have been wowing diners with for years.
The produce aisle can be a gorgeously confusing maze. Not all greens are green. Some are red or purple. Salad greens aren't the same as collard and turnip greens, which are meant for cooking.
There's a whole group of greens with fun textures and bold flavors just waiting to be tossed raw into salads.
Arugula: Arugula's attractive light to dark green fleshy leaves resemble elongated oak leaves and possess a warm peppery fragrance. Arugula delivers a distinct, rich flavor -- mildly peppery, spicy and tangy. Its flavor becomes more robust as it matures, and intensity can vary from bunch to bunch. Its snappy flavor will liven up spring mix salads, and Bibb and Boston lettuce love its zing. Pair it with extra-virgin olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.
Baby Arugula: This green may be better suited to salads than regular arugula because it is more tender and less bitter. Bold in flavor for its size, baby arugula's attractive and tiny mint-green leaves offer a spicy accent. Some describe young arugula as having a subtle, nutty flavor with a radish-like edge. Combine it with a variety of colorful leaf lettuces to create an elegant salad. Or enjoy it alone with a simple garlic vinaigrette. Its delicate texture is best suited to light dressings.
Baby Spinach: The chewy texture of this young green is deliciously crispy and coarse. It is sweeter than regular spinach with a delicate, subtle taste. The tender, small stems are edible, too. Spinach salad, traditionally made with bacon and hard-cooked eggs, has become an American classic. Omit the bacon and eggs and substitute sliced mushrooms and other vegetables for a healthier version. A favorite dressing is raspberry vinaigrette.
Belgian Endive: Smooth and slender, Belgian endive is a baby form of endive and boasts bright white, yellow-tipped closed leaves. Easy to chew, the elegant white heads of overlapping leaves offer a rich, slightly bitter flavor. Bittersweet Belgian endive deliciously accents salads and sandwiches, but use it sparingly. Pair it with a vinegar and oil dressing.
Dandelion Greens: Dandelion greens are simply the leaves of the common yellow flower that grows wild in your yard. The greens are available at high-end supermarkets and some specialty food stores. Depending on the stage of growth, the pale green, jagged-edged leaves offer a slightly bitter flavor. The paler the leaves, the more tender the greens. Add pale crisp leaves to mixed green salads. Creamy dressings, fruity flavored vinegar or a light vinaigrette enhance the flavor.
Escarole: Escarole, a member of the endive family, somewhat resembles a butterhead lettuce with curving and ragged chewy leaves that are broad and loose. Dark green at the top, the crisp-textured smooth leaves are paler near the stem. The inner leaves are tender. This bold and refreshing green delivers a sharp, bitter flavor.
Frisee: A member of the endive family with curly narrow fringed leaves that actually look frizzy, frisee's light to lime-green lacy leaves offer a mildly bitter, but pleasing flavor. The delicate white centers are considered a culinary delicacy and have a less bitter taste. Chefs love its good looks. Mix with any other salad greens or serve alone with a favorite dressing drizzled on the crisp, chilled leaves. Oil-based dressing are most often used on this green.
Radicchio: This exceptionally attractive, deep red, round vegetable resembles a small head of cabbage. Heads grow from orange to grapefruit size. Easy to peel off, the satiny crisp leaves offer a distinct bittersweet flavor. Use its pronounced flavor and splashy color to dress up mixed green salads. It goes with all types of dressings, but a vinegar and oil dressing is most commonly used.