Salad Days

Lettuce is abundantly good for you, but that doesn’t mean an abundance of lettuce is always a good thing.

Which is why I’m sitting here in the community room at the Common Market in Frederick, Maryland, on a sweltering Saturday. Along with 16 other students, I’ve signed up for a class at the popular food co-op called Sensational Summertime Salads taught by Raw Chef Chelly, a wellness coach, vegan chef, and raw-foods guru from New Jersey.

A longtime vegetarian, I’d never put much thought into salads before. In my world, they’re basically a big bowl of greens doused in enough dressing to disguise the fact that they’re basically a big bowl of greens.

But thanks to the CSA membership I share with friend Shannon Morgan and an alternately too-wet and too-dry late spring that’s severely limited Mother Nature’s offerings, I’ve been bombarded with so much of the green stuff lately that I’m getting a little desperate.

Well, maybe desperate is too strong a word.

Nope. Desperate really is the word.

After a couple hours with Chef Chelly, though, desperation quietly morphs into determination. Did you know that tamari, Bragg Liquid Aminos (a seasoning made from soy protein), and toasted sesame oil make a killer dip-slash-salad-dressing-slash-marinade?

Neither did I. But I do now.

And ditto a luscious combo of pureed coconut butter, pineapple, and Medjool dates.

And even though Chef Chelly’s salad recipes go out of their way not to include pedestrian lettuce—focusing instead on colorful, seasonal, and often unsung veggies like jicama, parsnips, and the oft-maligned zucchini—they’re easily adaptable to a bumper crop of romaine, mesclun, or even, god forbid, iceberg.

By the time the class—which includes hefty samples and, in my case, an unfortunate eye-watering episode involving too much cayenne—ends, I’ve got a page full of notes, a short list of creative seasonings to try, and a newfound appreciation for raw foods.

Am I psyched about next week’s inevitable metric ton of CSA-grown lettuce?


But I’m not intimidated by it, either.

Thanks to the Common Market and Chef Chelly, I’m now armed with a handful of innovative, unusual recipes and ideas to make my summertime salads shine.

It’s enough to make me want to skip the entrée altogether.

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