When is a recipe for salad really necessary? I mean, you could probably read the title of this post and generally figure out how to go about making this without instructions. Salad is one of my absolute favorite foods, hands down, and as such, I have pretty strong feelings about how salad should be made. Often, I just throw one together with what's on hand, maybe substituting one ingredient for another, lazily chopping or slicing, using some of whichever vinaigrette is in my fridge.
However, good salads, the one's you come back to again and again, work because their components achieve just the right balance. Each ingredient plays off another: the crunchy, soft, salty and sweet. The way ingredients are handled makes a big difference: cutting something in small dice will have a very different effect than in thin slivers. So while amounts for salads maybe done by eye, good salad recipes document those combinations that really work.
Here's a salad I'm fond of for a special occasion, sliced and served just so. Thin slivers of apple and fennel play tart, bright counterparts against the sweetness of lump crab and baby lettuces. I have these wonderful tiny red lettuces growing in a pot in the backyard, but another mild baby lettuce would work nicely. As long as you promise to follow the recipe.
Crab, Fennel, and Apple Salad
1 cup jumbo lump crab meat
1/2 a fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, with a few fronds reserved for garnish
1/2 a Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
baby lettuces, about 4 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, pinch sugar, pinch salt
1. Whisk together dressing ingredients in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the lettuces and toss with your hands to coat. Add the apple and fennel and toss to coat. Arrange lettuces and vegetables on serving plates (reserve the bowl). Add crab to bowl and toss around with whatever remaining salad dressing is in the bowl. Mound crab over salad. Garnish with fennel fronds.