Snow’s feathering down outside. Last night, the old plastic thermometer outside my kitchen window sat at 9° F before I went to bed. But yesterday, when I made this salad, I had that early spring energy and I wanted my dinner to capture it. I started making this years ago as a way to celebrate my chickens. They used to start laying again right around St. Patrick’s Day, when the light came back.
This salad makes a beautiful light dinner for company (hint: an excuse to make a rich dessert!). Lately, I’ve been seeing okra in the grocery store, so I crisped some to add to the plate, but it isn’t essential. Just think green and see what you can find. You can slice and add some pickled okra instead of using fresh. You can slice and add fat green canned olives. Some years, when there’s a good deal on artichokes, I’ll steam one and add it to the plate. I’ve included toasted Brussels sprouts. I’ve added steamed broccolini and grilled bok choy. I’ve scattered the plate with near transparent shaved radish moons and pepitas.
Some of my favorite local grocery items in Anchorage are the widely available, various hydroponic herbs, sprouts, and micro-greens you can find year-round. Those are great to toss in and really on brand for a spring salad. I especially like onion or sunflower sprouts. The dressing relies heavily on fresh herbs, though it’s also flexible for substitutions. You can add more parsley if you can’t find basil and vice versa. You can skip mint and add fresh tarragon if you’re into that kind of thing. Don’t skip the chives, green onions, and garlic, though. You need them to give the dressing the right savory zip.
And, lastly, a note on eggs. They really take the salad over the top with their sunny pop on the platter. It’s a lot of fun when you can find and use ones of different sizes. I’ve had great luck in Anchorage finding quail and duck eggs at Asian markets, like New Sagaya Midtown Market. They can also be found at farmers markets or in friends’ coops. I include instructions on how to cook them so the yolks turn out just right. Another bonus to this salad: all the components can be made ahead.
- Roughly 2 pounds mixed green vegetables like haricots verts, long beans, asparagus, or broccolini, lightly steamed but still “al dente,” cooled
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 4 ounces butter lettuce or about 2 loosely packed cups tender arugula
- 1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced on the bias
- 6 eggs, from assorted fowl if possible (add a few more if using quail eggs)
- 1 cup micro-greens or pea shoots
- ½ cup basil leaves
FOR THE CRISPY OKRA
- 2 cups fresh or pickled okra, tops removed, halved lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt
FOR THE DRESSING
- 1½ cups Greek yogurt
- 3 fillets anchovies
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup Italian parsley
- ¼ cup fresh chives
- ¼ cup fresh mint
- 3 green onions, both white and green parts
- 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Lime slice
Prepare the okra. Preheat oven to 425° F. Arrange sliced okra, seed side down, on a sheet pan. Make sure the pieces are not touching. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast 10–15 minutes, until they are golden and crispy on the seed side. Set aside to cool. (During this time, you can also quickly steam green vegetables and cool under cold water.)
Make jammy eggs. In a saucepan, cover eggs with cold water and place over medium heat on the stove. When the pot begins to boil, set a timer for 6 minutes for chicken eggs, 7 for duck eggs. (Quail and bantam eggs will need less time.) When the timer sounds, place the pan in the sink and run cold water into it until the eggs are cool to the touch. Peel them carefully and slice in half lengthwise.
Make the dressing. In a food processor or high powered blender, add yogurt, anchovies, basil, Italian parsley, chives, mint, green onions, garlic, lime juice, zest, olive oil, and sea salt. Blend until smooth. If it is too thick for your taste, thin with water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
On a large platter, arrange greens and basil, and top with cucumber, steamed vegetables, and eggs. Drizzle with good olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve dressing in a bowl in the center of the salad. Garnish with lime slices.