By Kerri Conan
I am not the sort of gal known for her delicate touch. But each spring, when the first garden salads of the season appear on our table, I muster a smidgeon of restraint.
This year our Kansas greens are waterlogged with two weeks of near-solid rain, so they’re extra fragile, tender, and mild. Add whatever microgreens I’m thinning from the plot—this week it was beet and dill sprouts—and suddenly dressing becomes an issue. Even the velocity of a thin stream of oil pouring from a bottle or spoon seems harsh. The answer: Mix the dressing in your hands, then use the same tools to toss it.I first heard of this technique from my old friend, food writer, farmer (and current Kentuckian) Susie Quick. Over the years I’ve adapted it to accommodate any and all ingredients. And the concept is both elegant and foolproof, since unless your hands are the size of canoe oars, it’s impossible to overdress the salad. (Tong tip to husband Sean for demonstrating here, lest someone think those were my hands!)
After the greens are rinsed and dried—ideally in a spinner for fluffiness—put them in a bowl big enough for elbow room, sprinkle lightly with salt, and give a cursory toss. I don’t always use pepper on the earliest leaves, since the sharpness and grit can be too abrasive.
Next rub about a tablespoon of oil between the palms of your hands and gently paw through the greens, lifting and folding them a couple times as if you were turning brioche dough. Rarely do you need more than a tablespoon, but maybe for a large bowlful, so repeat the process until the greens start to stick to your hands a bit.
You can stop there, or add a few drops of lemon juice, again lightly passing through the salad with your hands. Try this method with any combination of oils, citrus, or vinegars—mindful of the proportions; a few drops of something strong, like sherry or balsamic are plenty to balance the oil without causing one leaf to droop. And with that payoff, even I don’t miss the pool of dressing at the bottom of the bowl.