Spring Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

May 5, 2014

My husband remarked the other day that he never really ate salad–wait, scratch that–he remarked that he’d never enjoyed eating salad–before he met me. Nowadays, he’s a big fan of green crunchy stuff and will happily make a summer dinner out of it.

Why the conversion?

Actually, it’s simple. The salads he was eating before he met me were sucky salads. Beige salads. Boring salads. Salads that consisted of iceberg lettuce, a few carrot shreds and a handful of lackluster cherry tomatoes.

I can’t really blame him…a lot of people eat those sucky salads on a regular basis and consider it “salad.”

Those ain’t salads.

Those be suckage.

Those be things you force yourself to eat because you think you should, not because you want to.

I am fervently, violently opposed to those kinds of salads. They give the rest of the salad world a bad rap, and thats unfair, because in truth? There are some rockin’ salads out there. Seriously! Think outside of the iceberg, ladies and gents! There’s a whole world of salad nirvana just waiting for you, if only you’d open your mind and add a few minutes onto your preparation time.

Not a lot of minutes, mind you. Just a few. As in 5 to 10. But those are important minutes, readers. Those minutes mean the difference between a castrated salad and a salad that sings. Totally minutes worth taking, believe me.

What makes a salad sing, you ask?

The answer is easier than you think. Variety. Contrast. Balance.

Let’s start with variety. Salad crime #1: People assume that all salads are built on lettuce. Lettuce is the building block upon which all salads are built. Preferably iceberg lettuce. Beep! Wrong. There are some pretty kick-ass salads out there that don’t have one leaf of lettuce to their name.  I mean, really, why should lettuce always get top billing? There are plenty of other delicious, salad-worthy vegetables waiting for their time in the sun, and you should take notice. Snap peas. Green beans. Juicy tomatoes. Edamame. Bell peppers. Even the lowly celery stalk. All capable of filling lettuce’s shoes, and filling it with savvy. All it takes is a little wiggle of the imagination.

Salad crime #2: lack of contrast. Or, as I say, interest. Contrast–in taste, texture, appearance–is more important than you realize when it comes to salad. That’s why the iceberg/carrot shred/limp tomato combination is such an abomination–there’s no zing, no mystery. The best salads surprise you; they keep your interest with little bits of richness, saltiness, creaminess, crunch, chew. This is where a handful of toasted nuts, a shot of zingy blue cheese, a sprinkle of dried cranberries, a hit of fresh mint make all the difference. It doesn’t take long to add those items to an ordinary salad. All it takes is a little thought and a well-stocked pantry.

Let’s talk about balance for a minute. Salads shouldn’t be one note–as in, all you taste is Ranch dressing as you munch away. Good salads balance sweet, salty, crunchy, soft. Pungent needs a little mild. Rich needs a little fresh. Take this salad, for instance. It’s got rich, buttery hazelnuts and clean, sharp lemon. It has creamy goat cheese and snappy fresh mint. It has tender green beans and bright, crunchy snap peas.

See where I’m going with this?

This salad was the star of our Easter meal this year–truly. The honeybaked ham and the roasted potatoes didn’t stand a chance. The thing everyone swooned over? This salad. It’s like a little treasure chest of goodies, and it looks impressive yet takes minutes to put together. I like that in a holiday dish. I also love that this salad can be served slightly chilled or at room temperature, so you’ve got flexibility. It won’t wilt if you dress it ahead of time, which is a bonus.  It’s sophisticated without being overly fussy.

Do yourself a favor and abandon your average Caesar this spring. Serve this instead. The Salad Gods will reward you, I promise.



Spring Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

serves 6


3 cups small, thin green beans (haricot vert)

3 cups sugar snap peas

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup roasted hazelnut oil

1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled


In a 4 quart pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil. Add snap peas and green beans and cook until just crisp-tender, about 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander and plunge the peas/beans into a bowl filled with ice water. Drain again and set aside.

Slice snap peas on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces. Combine with green beans in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together mint, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly.

Toss salad with dressing. Top with toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri May 5, 2014 at 8:57 am

This sounds delicious, Kitch. My daughter is in a “salad” phase and I know she will love this.


Dana Talusani May 5, 2014 at 7:36 pm


Your daughter is in a “salad” phase? Can she please come over and convert Miss M.? I love good salad eaters!


Shannon May 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm

That salad sounds delicious. Does it travel well? Because you could just mail it to me.


Dana Talusani May 5, 2014 at 7:38 pm


I’d rather you just mail yourself over here and we could eat it together. With cocktails in hand.


Anonymous May 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Amen! If you ever want ideas/recipes for salads of endives, beets, celery roots, fennel, or many more, just let me know!


katrina Kenison May 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm

This is my kind of food. I think of myself as something of a salad queen, but this is a combination I never tried. Going for it~thank you!


Alison May 5, 2014 at 6:03 pm

You’re right – for a long time, I did not like salads because they are of the limp, tasteless variety. But when I discovered salads with slices of orange, strawberry, nuts etc in them, HEAVEN. Yours look absolutely delish.


Dana Talusani May 5, 2014 at 7:41 pm


For the longest time, I resisted the idea of fruit in salads. But then I met strawberry/goat cheese/pecans and romaine/pear/bleu cheese/walnut and I think the whole world turned on its axis.


elizabeth May 6, 2014 at 6:58 am

I’m going to have to try this, only without the beans (because no, I can’t do them. Not even raw). But I’ll up the pea count instead!


Biz May 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Sadly, my husband will not eat any green other than lettuce and feels that a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, and bacon bits is all a salad needs to be!

I have to admit though, I have never added fresh mint to a salad – need to try that next time!


Tiffany May 6, 2014 at 3:01 pm

That sounds amazing…I love a good salad!


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me May 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm

We love salads – all kinds. This looks spectacular. I don’t like snap peas, but the Hub does and I know he’ll eat this.


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