May is National Salad Month, timed to correspond with the start of the growing season here in Minnesota. And we love salads of every order--beet salad, potato salad, papaya salad, and pasta salad...even lime Jell-O salad with cottage cheese and pineapple. Despite their germ-host potential, we even love salad bars, though only if they're at least in the ballpark of the one at Fogo de Chão, with its giant wheels of Parmesan, forests of asparagus stalks, and glossy sheets of smoked salmon. Here are five spring salad favorites:
5. Barbette's Niçoise Salad At one point in life, we managed to acquire a recipe for Barbette's version of Nice's famous salad, but we never ended up making the thing. That's because the Nicoise has so many ingredients--ahi tuna, purple potatoes, haricots verts, hard boiled egg, anchovies, etc., etc.--that it was just easier to go to the restaurant. It's also a healthful way to balance out the inevitable bowl of pommes frites you'll order.
4. Il Gatto's Insalata Rucola We already raved about this one in 100 Favorite Dishes, but it's worth another mention: the salad is just that good. After knocking back a few during Il Gatto's killer happy hour, you're going to need something solid to soften the blow, and we'd recommend the Insalata Rucola for its balance of peppery arugula, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, grana padano cheese--and a couple of bread sticks.
3. La Belle Vie's Baby Artichoke and Mâche Salad Mâche is one of our favorite greens, for its tissue-like delicacy, and we'll never pass up a chance to eat artichokes. But what makes this salad truly outstanding is its sesame yogurt dressing and sprinkle of Moroccan spices, which are toasted to evoke a hot desert wind, and contrast beautifully with the greens.
2. Lucia's Farmers' Salad Another on the list of 100 Favorites, this is a Lucia's menu regular--that's also constantly changing, depending on what's in season. There are always just-picked greens and vegetables--hot radishes, crunchy cukes--and occasionally fruit, depending on what might pair best with the protein, be it arctic char or smoked turkey.
1. Spoonriver's Tomato-Watermelon Salad We haven't had this salad since Spoonriver first opened and we've been pining for it ever since. It almost looks like an architectural model, assembled of various watermelon and tomato pillars, scattered with confetti-like herbs. The salad tastes sweet, acidic, and a little perfumy, as it's dressed with a vanilla vinaigrette. And much like our fleeting produce season, it's always finished too soon. We're listing the tomato-watermelon salad here in the hope it will make a reprise this summer.