Building a Better Spring Salad

Fields of greens inside a greenhouse and locally infused olive oil



lēf Farms has changed the game for growing greenhouse baby greens. Their Loudon facility, almost an acre in size, produces a million pounds of baby greens yearly with their proprietary hydroponic system. Seeds are dropped into peat moss-filled channels that move automatically across the naturally lit space. After slowly traveling the length of the greenhouse, the channel is twirled (spun) into a chilled room where the tops are sliced off and the greens drop to a conveyor belt. From there, they are finally loaded into clamshell packaging in a process that's 100-percent automated.

The greens are bagged as mixes with smooth flavors (leaf lettuce, pac choi, mizuna and oakleaf) that are great for salad and wraps. They also offer the Spice mix with arugula, mustard, cressida, mizuna and leaf lettuce, and Balance with both red and green baby kale. Yes, it is very healthy. Young greens are notably more nutritious than full green iceberg varieties.

Cucina Aurora Infused Olive Oils can be found online at cucinaaurora.com and a variety of specialty food outlets in southeastern New Hampshire. Other infused flavors include rosemary oregano, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomato and a spicy hot pepper. Unlike many other flavored oils, all of Cucina Aurora's are 100-percent olive oil and suitable for dipping, marinades, cooking and salad dressing.

lēf Farms' latest Spicy mix includes new varieties of Red Oak, a pac choi for more color, Coastline, with the taste and crunch of romaine and a red mustard with great frills. Find lēf Farms lettuce at several Hannaford supermarkets, Whole Foods and Harvest Markets. Restaurants that support lēf include O Steaks & Seafood in Concord, The Foundry in Manchester and Beth Richard’s Local Baskit meal kits based in Concord. More sources can be found at lef-farms.com.

Adapted from a lēf Farms recipe
Serves 4 to 6

Make Quinoa

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa (tri-color is pretty)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse quinoa under running water for a few minutes and add to water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit for a few minutes and fluff with a fork.


Photo by Susan Laughlin

Vinaigrette with Aurora Cucina's Lemon Infused Olive Oil

3/4 cup Cucino Aurora zesty lemon infused olive oil
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine lemon juice and water in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a jar with cover and shake vigorously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Salad Topper

6-8 radishes, thinly sliced on a mandolin or with a knife
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
12 stalks asparagus, blanched and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup blanched fresh peas or frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dill pickles, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 box lēf Farms spicy greens

Add quinoa and vinaigrette to a mixing bowl and toss well to coat. Add half of the radishes and all of the peas, asparagus, dill, mint, red onion and dill pickles. Place cup of quinoa mix on a mound of lēf greens for individual salads.  To finish, add remaining radishes and feta on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

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