Randy’s Recipes: Fresh Spring Salads

Before Caesar Cardini (of Caesar salad fame), Henri Heyraud (Niçoise salad), or Jamie Oliver (mixing salads with fingers), there was the plain old garden salad. The Oxford Dictionary of Food and Drink in America says that garden salads were popularized in ancient Rome as raw leafy vegetables covered in salty, oily dressing. It is not surprising, then, that the word salad derives from the Latin word for salt (sal).

Today, we enjoy salads with vegetables, beans, pasta, seafood, tuna, chicken, eggs, fruit, and even Jell-O disguised as a molded salad. They are a nice break from stodgy, although tasty, cool-weather soups, and if done correctly, they are delicious and healthy. You can’t get much better than that.

I like a salad as a light lunch or a side dish with dinner. My idea of a simple spring salad includes fresh leafy greens such as butter lettuce or arugula with an oil and vinegar dressing. I also like to create a salad bar at home for my family that features leafy greens and three different salad dressings from which to choose.

Here are my five favorite spring salad recipes and three additional salad dressings that are good on any salad. Give them a try!

Edamame Black Bean Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

This is an all-purpose spicy honey-lime salad dressing — perfect for a tasty springtime salad. I’ve included an edamame salad recipe for your use, but you can substitute plain romaine lettuce leaves or your favorite combination of salad greens instead of the edamame.

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped fine)

1 garlic clove (minced)

1 small jalapeño pepper (chopped fine)

Edamame Salad Ingredients:

2 cups fresh shelled edamame

1-1/2 cups fresh corn

1 cup black beans (rinsed and drained from a 15-ounce can)

1 avocado (cut into ½-inch pieces)

1/4 cup red bell pepper (chopped)

Salt and pepper to taste

Edamame Salad Directions:

Combine all ingredients except for the avocado. Stir well. Add the avocado pieces, being careful not to mash them while stirring into the rest of the salad.

Serving Directions:

Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend for about 60 seconds (or until smooth). Pour over salad ingredients and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tip: To make the dressing vegan, substitute agave nectar for the honey.


Blood Orange Salad with Fennel and Avocado

This vegan salad features blood oranges, fennel, and Fuerte avocados in a fantastic combination of fresh fruit and vegetables. Also, the dressing is made with a flavorful blood orange olive oil and pear-flavored white balsamic vinegar. Add a touch of agave nectar for sweetness, fresh edible flowers from the garden for color, and you have a salad your friends and family will remember for many a moon.


3 to 4 blood oranges (peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick)

3 fennel bulbs (sliced 1/8-inch thick, see below)

3 avocados

1/2 cup blood orange olive oil

1/4 cup D’Anjou white balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon agave nectar

1/2 bunch Romaine lettuce (chopped)

4 pansy flowers (nasturtiums are a good substitute)

4 chilled salad plates


Trim the ends of each fennel bulb. Cut into quarters and remove the core from each quarter. Slice thinly (crosswise). Set aside. Peel oranges. Trim off the extra pulp. Slice off ends and discard. Slice oranges in half from top to bottom and then slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside. Peel avocados and cut in half. Discard seed. Slice avocados into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, and agave nectar. Set dressing aside. To serve, place a handful of lettuce on each chilled salad plate. Arrange oranges, fennel slices, and avocados on top of the lettuce. Drizzle with a good tablespoon or more of dressing. Garnish with pansy flowers and serve while plates are still cold.

Tip: Blood oranges are available through April, but if you can’t find any, you can substitute navel orange slices.

Arugula-Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad

Arugula is available year-round and, with its peppery taste, is a nice changeup for a spring salad. I like baby arugula because it is less bitter and more tender. It makes a difference. If you can’t find baby arugula at your favorite store, try looking for it at a farmers’ market.


2 cups baby arugula 

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup toasted walnut pieces (divided)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

12 ounces farfalle pasta

3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

3/4 cup golden raisins


Whirl together arugula, lemon zest, garlic, 1/4 cup walnuts, oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor until blended, scraping inside of bowl as needed.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving a scant 1/4 cup of water. Return pasta to pot and add pesto, stirring to coat. Stir in remaining walnuts, cheese, raisins, and reserved pasta water.

Tip: for a vegan salad, leave out the cheese.

Classic Three-Bean Salad

My wife, Robin, has made this recipe at least every year of the 44 years we’ve been married. It is one of my favorite non-leafy-green salads and is excellent for potluck gatherings or picnics!


15 ounces cut green beans (drained)

15 ounces white beans (drained and rinsed)

15 ounces kidney beans (drained and rinsed)

1/2 cup white onion (chopped)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large stalk celery (chopped)

1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning


Gently mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for three to four hours before serving.

Cold Lentil Salad with Kalamata Olives

I like this recipe because it is different, it is flavorful, and it is nutritious. It’s a wonderful addition to my spring and summer picnic fare. The combination of lightly seasoned lentils, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, and a fresh vinaigrette dressing can’t be beat.

Lentil ingredients:

2-1/2 cups cooked lentils (I use Trader Joe’s steamed lentils)

1 cup diced English or Persian cucumbers (no need to peel)

1 cup cherry tomatoes (quartered) 

1/4 cup red onion (chopped fine) 

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley (chopped)

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (chopped) 

1/4 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives (chopped)

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Vinaigrette ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

2 teaspoons yellow mustard 

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon dried oregano (crushed between the palms of your hands)

1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper


Place all lentil ingredients (lentils through cheese) in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Place all vinaigrette ingredients (oil through pepper) in a medium bowl and whisk until well mixed. Pour over the lentil mixture and gently stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I like to serve this on a bed of chopped crisp lettuce and to bring a loaf of crusty French bread to the table (or to the picnic blanket).

Tip for vegans: Use vegan feta, and this is a completely vegan recipe!



Pecorino, Yogurt and Black Pepper Salad Dressing

This is a simple yet super tasty blend of ingredients and can be made in less than 10 minutes from start to finish. I serve this as a side with grilled artichokes. You might also like to try it with jalapeño poppers, croquettes, or a mixed vegetable tray.


1/2 cup Pecorino cheese (grated fine)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon zest (grated fine)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Blend cheese, yogurt, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and water in a blender until smooth; season with salt and a generous amount of pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tarragon Salad Dressing

Although American cuisine does not favor tarragon, it is a major flavoring in French cooking, including béarnaise sauce. The French call it the “King of Herbs.” The ancient Greeks reportedly used it as a remedy for toothaches. Today, we know that tarragon contains an anesthetic chemical, eugenol, which figures prominently in anesthetic clove oil. See the movie “Marathon Man” for a disturbing use of clove oil as an anesthetic. On second thought, even though Dustin Hoffman is exceptional as Babe, skip the movie! It is disturbing.

Tarragon loses potency as it dries. This may be why it is frequently preserved in vinegar, which captures its essence and provides tastiness when used in salad dressings. But why purchase tarragon vinegar when you can enjoy fresh tarragon from your garden? Here’s a creamy salad dressing recipe using fresh tarragon.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup salad oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon gluten-free tamari sauce

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 clove garlic (minced)

1-1/2tablespoons fresh tarragon (minced)


In a small bowl, whisk mayo, oil, lemon juice, vinegar, tamari, pepper, and garlic. Add tarragon and mix well. Cover and chill for a couple of hours to allow the tarragon’s goodness to infuse the dressing.

Tip: You can substitute Vegenaise for the mayonnaise and this is becomes a vegan dressing.

Cilantro-Lemongrass Dressing

This recipe was developed as a way to enjoy the fresh lemongrass Robin grows in our backyard. Serve it on salads or with grilled tofu cutlets on rice noodles.


1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (no stems)

6 tablespoons chopped tender inner stalks lemongrass

2 tablespoons fresh ginger (grated)

4 large green onions (coarsely chopped)

4 jalapeño chiles (seeded, coarsely chopped)

Juice of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves (peeled)

Salt to taste


Combine coconut milk and all remaining ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Thin with more coconut milk by the teaspoon for desired texture. Season to taste with salt. Serve at room temperature.