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By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey Johnson.

The weather really warmed up around here this week — it feels like summer! High temperatures always makes me want to mix things up cooking-wise. I either tend to move any cooking to the grill, or skip it altogether and focus on lighter fare like salads.

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My salad repertoire is uninspiring at the moment. In fact it’s kind of bumming me out. So I called Lindsey. I know she LOVES salad and I know she comes up with awesome salad combos featuring ingredients I would never think to use on my own. I asked Lindsey for a fresh, green, spring salad — and boy oh boy did she come through!

But before we jump into the recipe, I’d love to hear: what kind of salads are you making these days? Do you have any go-to combos? Do you change things up with seasonal food, or do you have reliable recipes that you never tire of?

pea shoot arugula salad

Here’s what Lindsey says:

My favorite food is salad. That may sound silly, but it’s 100% true! I love a good salad, and I’m quite adept at putting together a mighty fine salad, if I do say so myself. Years ago when I finally decided to dive in and learn to like salad (after years of claiming I hated it), I knew iceberg and gloppy Ranch dressing weren’t going to cut it for me. I started with baby spinach and moved on to other leafy greens and tried just about every combination of ingredients I could think of.

arugula

The first tine I had a salad made with arugula, and I was immediately smitten with its unique, peppery flavor. Baby arugula tends to be a bit more mild, but I will go right for the really strong stuff too. For awhile, I was putting arugula in everything from salads to pasta to pesto to sandwiches. I love arugula so much, I even throw a handful into my morning smoothie every so often. (It’s really good with berries.)

My love for salads kicked into high gear when I spent a few years working for two farms nearby where I used to live. I was fortunate, or spoiled rather, to always have the freshest greens imaginable on my table every day. And the best arugula I’d ever tasted. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that until recently. We are still gathering our bearings in our new city (even though it’s almost been two years!) and I’m still searching out a new farm with a CSA to join. In addition to that, this year is the first year for a few years that I will have a garden again. (You may remember my awesome container garden from a few years back. Such a great way to maximize your growing area.) Luckily, my co-op carries locally grown greens and herbs, so I get my fill whenever I can.

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I’m such a fan of spring greens and veggies, and it really is nice to find them locally grown, but I know that’s not always possible. Anyway, all of that is to say that this salad makes good use of fresh, green spring veggies, greens, and herbs – and not asparagus! (I’m totally NOT an asparagus hater, but it seems like we eat it and see it all the time during spring. It’s nice to have a few other favorite spring veggies to enjoy too. :) ) And hopefully wherever you live, you’ll have access to the same or similar ingredients because this really is a yummy combination!

pea shoots

One of my very favorite, favorite, favorite spring veggies is pea shoots. The tender shoots are a cut above sprouts (I totally stole that from the farm’s packaging and label) and have a mild pea flavor. If they grow for longer, the leaves will become larger and cute little tendrils will spring up. If left to grow even longer, darling purple and white blossoms will appear and eventually turn into peas. Those tender leaves, tendrils, and stems are just as delicious. So if you can’t find one, see if you can find the other. If not, any mild shoot or sprout will do here. Some can be pretty spicy – like radish sprouts. (Trust me.) I also added fresh peas — no need to cook them first if they are super fresh. (And if you can’t find fresh, you can just thaw out some frozen baby peas and you’ll be set.)

Everyone knows peas and mint are a classic combo, so I’ve added plenty of fresh mint too. I like the saltiness of feta with mint and the sweet pea shoots. It’s all about the balance of flavors and textures for me. The fresh lemon juice is such a great and not-overpowering way to add an acidic and extra fresh element.

cooked farro

I’m also a huge fan of adding whole grains or seeds (such as quinoa, amaranth, rice, millet, etc.), along with nuts. It helps to bulk the salads up with extra protein and carbs to make it more filling. This salad would be great for lunch or dinner as is, but it’s great with a piece of grilled chicken or fish, or even veggie burger. This salad uses farro, which is an ancient variety of wheat. It cooks fairly quickly and you can find it near the rice at the grocery store. But another whole grain can easily be substituted. (I’ve included variations and substitutions below the recipe.)

spring salad with arugula and pea shoots

And after all that, all it needs is a good toss and it’s ready to eat. :)

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Spring Arugula and Pea Shoot Salad

Ingredients:
4 cups baby arugula
2 cups pea shoots, washed well and loosely packed
1 cup cooked farro* (or another whole grain such as wheat, barley, wild or brown rice, etc.)
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup shelled peas
1/2 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh mint, torn
5-6 green onions, thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 2 medium lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Place arugula, pea shoots, farro, feta, peas, almonds, mint, green onions, and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl.
2. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings

*Farro typically comes pearled or semi-pearled. It needs to be cooked before being used. They cooking time is about the same as brown rice, though you can sometimes find parboiled and dried farro that only takes about 10 minutes to cook.

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Notes:
– This can be made ahead. Don’t add the dressing until right before serving.
– Baby spinach or another tender green can be used instead of arugula
– Substitute parsley or basil for mint, if desired.
– Fresh, crumbled goat cheese can be substituted for the feta, as can another salty cheese such as Ricotta Salata, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Romano, etc.
– If you can’t find farro, another grain or small pasta can be used such as wheat berries, freekeh, bulghur, barley, wild or brown rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa, couscous, orzo, etc.
– If you can’t find pea shoots, another variety of shoot or sprout can be used, keeping in mind that some are spicy or more strong in flavor than the peas. Look for sunflower shoots; broccoli, radish, alfalfa, or another sprout. Wash very well before using!

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Oh my goodness. Thank you, Lindsey! My mouth is watering. I want to stop typing right now so I can go to the store and find pea shoots — I don’t think I’ve ever bought them before!

What do you think, Dear Readers? Anyone else craving salads these days? If you make this, I’d love to hear about it!

Credits: Images, styling & recipe by Lindsey Johnson