Our recipes and stories, delivered.

April 10, 2024
Salad-for-Dinner Season Is Here

This hearty spring salad is a whole meal on its own

I love Cobb salads, chopped salads, and really any salad that’s fully loaded with all the good stuff: crisp veggies, salty cheese, savory meats. The arrival of spring means there’s finally some exciting new produce to play with—fresh greens, peppery radishes, fava beans, and a bounty of sweet peas, just to name a few. There’s simply no better time to have salad for dinner.

This salad features some of spring’s finest produce—tender asparagus and sweet peas—which are briefly blanched before being tossed in with crunchy romaine lettuce, creamy avocado, and tangy marinated artichoke hearts. It’s important to look for firm, snappy asparagus with thick stalks, and to buy the freshest, youngest peas you can find. More mature or older peas tend to be starchy rather than sweet. (In a pinch, there’s no shame in using frozen peas, which don’t even need to be thawed before being blanched).

I add crispy bacon bits and cubed of chicken breast to nod to classic Cobb salad and include enough protein to call this salad a meal. I actually prefer pancetta, but since it can be expensive, I find that lightly salting my bacon while it’s cooking helps bring it a little closer to its Italian counterpart. Since the bacon is used almost as a garnish in this salad, the added salt is not overpowering at all—just tasty. I know it sounds a little unnecessary, but I also use this trick when making carbonara. Don’t knock it till you try it!

You can choose whatever crumbly cheese you like for this salad. Blue cheese is a solid choice, but I’ve been loving ricotta salata, a firm, aged ricotta that’s mild and pleasantly salty. The dressing combines vinegar, oil, and lots of garlic with a spoonful of mayonnaise. The mayonnaise plays a supporting role—just a dollop adds creaminess but doesn’t dominate. Look for white or golden balsamic vinegar, which is lightly sweet and adds nice dimension to the dressing. If you can’t find it, simply use whatever vinegar you have along with a small pinch of sugar.

The only downside to a salad like this is that it requires a lot of prep work. If you’re going to put in the effort, you want it to fill you up. Luckily, the chicken, bacon, avocado, and cheese help make this salad a full meal. While peas and asparagus are in season right now, you can also swap in other veggies as they come into season (like tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers) or try adding crispy chickpeas in place of chicken. Salad-for-dinner season is just beginning, and there’s only one rule: Add lots and lots of stuff.

RECIPE: Big Green Spring Salad

Zola Gregory

Zola Gregory is a writer and recipe developer based in Seattle. Having previously worked as a pastry chef and baker, she now enjoys helping others find success in their own kitchens through her stories, recipes, and baking classes.