Sunday, May 27, 2012


Ensalada mixta--a family-sized salad.

Garden alert! The lettuce is bolting! Yikes! Make salad. Make two salads. Make more salads. Warm weather shoots the lettuce to flower, precipitating an onslaught of salad days.

No complaints, really. I happily eat a huge salad for lunch every day. Huge, as in a whole lettuce just for me. With additions of other vegetables, both raw and cooked, and a bit of tuna, cooked chicken, hard-cooked egg or cheese I turn salad into a complete meal.

The Spanish ensalada mixta, or mixed salad, is a big production, served as a starter for a family meal. This is a “table salad,” served on a big platter and meant to be shared amongst the diners round the table. In traditional style, everybody eats from the serving dish, rather than dish out individual servings.

Tuna in olive oil.
A bed of shredded lettuce—usually romaine, but can include leaf lettuce or escarole as well—covers the platter. On top go tomato wedges (my garden tomatoes are still months away, so now these come from the market),  chunks of canned tuna (actually, I’ve started using bonito del norte, albacore tuna, packed in olive oil); quartered hard-cooked egg, onions sliced lengthwise; grated carrot, olives and canned white asparagus.

Canned white asparagus.
Optional additions are diced cucumber, strips of green pepper, canned corn (not for me!), pickled beets, sliced avocado.

Someone at the table does the honors of dressing the salad—lots of extra virgin olive oil and a little white wine vinegar are drizzled over the salad. Salt. That’s it. No garlic and no herbs except for a hint of thyme and fennel in the home-cured olives. Unlike a Greek salad, no cheese. And, no, don’t toss the salad.

Dress salad with olive oil and vinegar.
Just reach your fork over the platter and spear a juicy tomato, a chunk of tuna. A piece of bread in the other hand helps to scoop up forkfuls of salad. When most of the salad has been eaten, use the bread to soak up the oil and juices at the bottom of the platter—sort of instant gazpacho.

As much as I enjoy the simplicity of ensalada mixta, for my lunchtime salads I am more likely to make a slightly more complex vinaigrette. Here’s a recipe I like with a mixed vegetable salad—sliced new potatoes, cooked beans, tomatoes and greens.

Yogurt vinaigrette dressing.
Yogurt Vinaigrette

¼ cup no-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon wine or Sherry vinegar
minced garlic (optional)
chopped herbs (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Makes enough for a large salad or two smaller ones. Dressing keeps, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 days.

Oh, happy salad days!


  1. Hi Janet -- How lucky to have so much gorgeous lettuce in your own garden! I love the shared salads, too, which are of course particularly refreshing this time of year. I find the more time I live in Spain, the more generous my hand becomes with the olive oil...and not just because it is delicious, inexpensive and abundant, but also in response to the generous spirit of the family meal. Thank you for sharing your yogurt recipe, too!

  2. Ansley: The Spanish salad should be better known! I love to eat at a country venta with friends and share a big "centerpiece" salad.