The salad was delicately obscene, rife with ingredients that had been eying each other shyly across the tables at the farmer’s market, now mingling together under a light dressing of olive oil and vinegar. In the base of the wide cool bowl, lettuce coyly shows its underside from beneath fluttery edges, like a Victorian lady revealing a slip of ankle from beneath her skirts. Deep purple carrots that reveal pale creamy centers to their flesh, the effervescent cool of a firm crisp cucumber, impertinent young garlic fresh from a quick saute olive oil, and the surprising sweetness of wheat sprouts add to the gloriously fresh pile. A baguette is thinly sliced and toasted in the garlic-scented olive oil left in the pan, with fresh sage and salt sprinkled freely over top. The hard crunch of the impromptu croutons is countered by a slathering of the sweet tang of soft goat cheese. Soon the whole is consumed, causing the diner to believe the deceptively innocent salad is sunshine made tangible in glorious vegetable form.
I’d like to say there was a recipe for this, but there really isn’t. It’s a salad. Add veggies to your heart’s content. Find a farmer’s market and try stuff you never see in supermarkets. Try things you have never even heard of. Try heirloom varieties. I tend to lose all control and make salads the size of my torso. But that is the glory of greens. You can eat giant piles with impunity.
As for the impromptu croutons, it is simple. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice a garlic clove and toss in, stirring constantly. Never let it brown. This will take 20, maybe 30 seconds. Flip the garlic slices out of the pan. Add slices of thinly sliced baguette, or any other similar type of bread. Toss a bit of salt and freshly chopped herbs, if you like. Again, keep an eye on this. It doesn’t take long to go from brown to burned. Once one side is reasonably browned (they will never be perfect,) flip to the other side and repeat the process. As soon as they are done, remove them from the pan, otherwise they will burn. Hopefully you have timed it so you can plop them right on top of the salad. I like to smear them individually with goat cheese before putting them on the salad, but again, do what you like. Try a nice gorgonzola, maybe some shaved parmesan, or go with no cheese at all!