Mesclun has become as ubiquitous as iceberg, but when the mix of tender young greens first appeared on the culinary landscape, it was heralded as a salad savior. Alice Waters was an early booster, and remains an advocate of the simple, seasonal salad—her signature dish, some might say. It’s only fitting, then, that we share a dressing recipe from her latest book. Use it to anoint the first locally grown mesclun of the season, cultivated in hoop houses for now, and newly arrived at Greenmarket stands. (For the most delicate leaves, a coating of olive oil, salt, and pepper will suffice.)
Alice Waters’s Garlic Vinaigrette
1 small garlic clove
2 tbs. red-wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
(1) Wash the greens and dry them well, first in a salad spinner and then by rolling them up in a towel. Refrigerate until used. (2) Put a peeled garlic clove and 2 big pinches of salt in a mortar and pound into a purée, with no chunks remaining. Add the wine vinegar, grind in some black pepper, and taste for the balance of salt and vinegar. Allow to macerate for a few minutes, and (3) whisk in olive oil. Taste the dressing with a leaf of lettuce. It should taste bright and lively without being too acidic or oily; adjust the salt, vinegar, or oil as needed. To dress the salad, put several generous handfuls of greens in a large bowl. Toss with about three quarters of the vinaigrette, and taste. The greens should be lightly coated but not overdressed; add more dressing as needed. Adapted from In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter; $28).