GO LOCAL LUNCHEON TIPS
The beauty of a salad bar is that it's essentially no–cook and recipe–free. With greens surrounded by fresh sides and toppings of nuts, herbs, dried fruits and cheeses, the menu is always bright — especially when you shop with one of these spring produce themes in mind:
- Baby vegetables: asparagus, miniature carrots in white, purple and orange, fingerling potatoes, watercress, sugar snap peas and sweet English shelling peas.
- Heirlooms and varietals: cucumbers, peppers, Vidalia onions, edible flowers, Bloomsbury spinach, zucchini and squashes cut paper thin and lightly pickled. As summer approaches, choose early girl tomatoes and heirloom varieties.
- Exotic and unexpected: fiddleheads, cardoons, artichoke, fava beans, fennel, green garlic, pea greens, rhubarb, kohlrabi and avocado.
- Fruit garnishes: cherries, apricots, pomegranate, melon, strawberries (available year–round with a peak in June).
Give guests a boost with the following tips on making salad dressings. For sweet spring vegetables, little more is needed than a vinaigrette to complement the natural flavors. That said, there are endless combinations and variations in vinaigrettes. Here are just a few suggestions to spark the imagination.
- Basic Vinaigrette: in vinaigrettes, the magic ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1. Commit that to memory, and you won't have to buy salad dressings or look up vinaigrette recipes ever again.
- Infuse vinegars with herbs or fruits, or use lemon or lime juices in place of vinegar. Use nut, seed or olive oils, or oils infused with herbs, garlic, chili or truffle.
- Salt and pepper is a vinaigrette's most basic seasoning. Blend in shallots, onion, garlic, zest, fresh and dried herbs to change the character. A dollop of mustard, soy sauce, crème fraiche or yogurt also adds new flavors and dimensions.
- Vinaigrettes are endlessly malleable and can be as delicate or distinct as you want. Experiment with different styles by dipping vegetable and lettuce leaves to taste each one, and enjoy the limitless variations.
A glass dispenser filled with classic ice tea and lemon slices is a great beverage for this occasion. It's also a chance to experiment with other iced infusions or juices. In fact, there are almost no bad combinations as long as you keep the balance of flavors. In flavored teas, there's the grounding bitterness of tea leaves balanced by the acidic fruits and sugars. Sweet fruit juice must be balanced and brightened by citrus.
Try tea combinations such as lemongrass–mint, jasmine–lime, peach–ginger, lychee–hibiscus or pear–lemon verbena. Experiment with juice combinations like strawberry–lemonade, or refreshing agua frescas of watermelons, cantaloupes, pineapple or strawberry spiked with limeade.