Summer Salads Get an Upgrade

Once upon a time in Ireland — at least at the time I made my first trip in 1984, and even a decade later — a salad was not a salad as we know it today: think a few leaves of iceberg and a slice or two of tomato. Perfectly acceptable at the time, but four decades later you’ll find that no two salads are created equal. Yes, greens are often dressed with a simple blend of oil and vinegar, but you’re more likely to see salads arriving with a more colorful mix of lettuces — the four main varieties are loose-leaf, butterhead, crisp head, and romaine — topped with ingredients once unheard of on the same plate. A good mix starts with the “big three”: mild lettuce like Boston, Bibb or endive; a crisp lettuce like romaine; and a tart, peppery, or bitter green like arugula or radicchio. For delicious and nutritious greens to include in your next salad, consider one or more of these: butterhead (include Bibb and Boston, sweet and mild); chard (also called Swiss chard, wrinkled and tangy); dandelion greens (bitter); escarole (curly, slightly peppery); kale (mild with cabbage undertones); frisée (also known as curly endive, peppery flavor); mâche (lamb’s lettuce, nutty flavor); mesclun (mix of young salad greens, can be peppery); radicchio (red and white, bitter and peppery); spinach (tender with hearty flavor); or watercress (small, long-stemmed, peppery). Top your plate of greens with fresh or grilled fruit, grilled vegetables or fish, meat, cheese, beans or nuts. The possibilities are endless! Buy your favorite greens loose or in convenient 5-ounce packages.

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Serves 6 

Cashel Blue is celebrating forty years of crafting Ireland’s most well-known blue cheese at their farm near Fethard in County Tipperary. When you pair the salty blue with earthy beets (called “beetroot” in Ireland and the United Kingdom) and tart citrus, it’s a match made in heaven. With beets ranging in color from white to golden to purple and red, this salad is as pretty as it is delicious. Roast the beets up to a day ahead in separate packets to prevent the colors from bleeding (reserve the remaining ones for another dish). Blend the dressing and use a mix of your favorite lettuce and arugula for a perfect summer salad. You’ll find this and other salad ideas in my newest cookbook Delicious Ireland. To order a signed copy, visit

For the dressing

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

1/3 teaspoons orange zest

3 teaspoons orange zest

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons poppyseeds

1. In a lidded jar, combine everything but the poppy seeds. Cover; shake until blended. Stir in the poppyseeds. Refrigerate until serving time. 

For the roasted beetroot

4 golden beets

4 red beets 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Cut the green tops and root ends off the beets. 2. Toss the golden beetroots with 1 tablespoon oil; wrap in a foil packet. Repeat the process with the red beets. 

3. Place the packets on a baking sheet; roast for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the beets are easily pierced with the tip of a knife. (Roasting times will vary depending on the size of the beets, so use beets of similar size). 

4. Remove from the oven; set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the beets from packets. To prevent hands from staining, wear gloves or rub the skins off under cold running water. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

For the salad

Mixed greens with arugula (1 1/2 to 2 cups per person)

2 roasted golden beets, sliced

2 roasted red beets, sliced

1 medium seedless orange, peeled and sliced

1 tangerine or mandarin orange, peeled and segmented

4 ounces crumbled Cashel Blue Cheese

1. Divide the mixed greens among six salad plates. Arrange the beets and oranges on top; sprinkle with the cheese. 

2. Spoon the dressing over the salad just before serving. 


Serves 4 to 6

This recipe also calls for Cashel Blue (my favorite) and walnuts, but you can easily substitute crumbled goat cheese and almonds if you prefer.

For the vinaigrette

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 1/2 tablespoons honey


Ground pepper

1. In a small bowl or shaker jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper; whisk or shake to blend. Set aside.

For the salad

5 ounces baby arugula

12 ripe figs, quartered lengthwise and sliced

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (optional)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup crumbled Cashel Blue cheese

1/2 cup blueberries

1. Toss greens, figs, onion (if using), walnuts, and blue cheese in a large bowl or on a platter. Sprinkle blueberries or blackberries on top; drizzle with vinaigrette.


Serves 4

 Fresh fruit like strawberries and blueberries are delicious topping spinach or mixed greens. Serve with a drizzle of oil and vinegar or with this creamy dressing. 

For the dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

2 tablespoons white vinegar


Ground black pepper

1. Make dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, milk, poppy seeds, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

For the salad

5 ounces baby spinach

2 cups sliced strawberries

1/2 cup blueberries

Nuts or seeds, for topping

Brown bread, for serving (optional)

1. Divide spinach among four salad plates; top with strawberries, blueberries and onions (if using). Sprinkle with nuts; drizzle with dressing.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her signed cookbooks, visit