Thanks to a concerted effort and some row covers we've already had our first salad from the garden! (Well actually it was at least a week ago but I've been neglectful about my posting so here it is finally:)
The main component was mesclun mix and baby salad greens that we grew by direct seeding them. The problem with that method, especially with a new mesclun mix, is that you're never quite sure what is something you actually planted or just something that volunteered. Once we managed to discern which plants were edible and picked the leaves that were big enough I also threw in some violets and redbud blossoms. I was very lucky that they were both blooming at the same time because they are both edible and look amazing together.
This was a fancy shmancy dinner since we had a guest so the salad was served alongside homemade bread and a vegetarian curried mushroom parsnip pie I made. The pie was delicious but it wasn't actually vegetarian since I used chicken broth. I'll also confess that I used storebought crust since it was already in the fridge.
Here's a bonus recipe that isn't nearly as seasonally sensitive:
Can you tell I only thought to take the picture after I'd started eating it? This one may not look nearly as flashy but what it lacks in appearance it more than makes up for in flavor. Plus I think it's super easy (once you find the ingredients) considering how fancy it seems.
The first major ingredient is Israeli couscous (which is different and larger than the North African couscous most people are used to seeing). It basically tastes like a little pasta so if you really can't find it you could definately substitute orzo (although you miss some of the nice toasty flavor of the couscous).
Next we have French lentils (or Lentils du Puy, or green lentils). These lentils stand above all other lentils in my opinion because of their texture and flavor. They stay firmer when cooked than other lentils so they work perfectly for a salad (instead of turning into mush). The flavor is also amazing, when I cooked them for the first time I swore someone had thrown a bunch of black pepper in there with them but that is actually just how they are by themselves. Their color is also really cool: when raw they are a mottled bluish greenish color. I hope you can find them reasonably priced, I get them at a local natural food co-op in bulk so they aren't terribly expensive.
Next you'll need feta. I used Narragansett Creamery's Sea Salt Feta which is local! I'm excited about local cheese because until recently (as far as I'm aware) there wasn't any large scale cheese production in Rhode Island (at least not for a couple of hundred years). If you happen to be in RI and get to try some the Atwell's Gold is especially delicious.
Back to the salad: once you've located your ingredients you just boil and drain the couscous and lentils (separately). I don't really have a definite timing for either, I just keep checking them until they're just tender enough.
Once drained I dress them with olive oil (I won't tell you it has to be this or that fancy kind, let's just say the best you're willing to pay for) and balsamic vinegar. I also throw in some herbs (maybe oregano or thyme and either fresh or dry, depending on if I feel like going outside to pick it). I also (gasp!) use garlic powder.
When the salad is ready to serve toss in some feta and if it's a Friday night and you're feeling really crazy you can serve it on a bed of arugula. I just happened to have some on hand so I ate mine with it and it's perfect because the peppery flavor in it really compliments the pepperiness of the lentils.
Now if I were to suggest that this is a meal in and of itself I'm sure the meat lovers out there would scoff but I'm serious, I can sit down and eat a huge bowl of this for lunch. It would also be great to bring to a party if you want to seem like a real fancy pants. Once you start rattling off the international list of ingredients (preferably with an English accent) people will surely be impressed.