They're just as important than lettuce.
I stand in front of the herb table at the farmers market every week for such a long time—taking giant inhales of funky fresh herb-smell and not moving at all—that the guy working the cash register has a brand of side-eye reserved just for me. Are you going to buy something, weird girl? he wonders. Or just sniff the air around my wares? I usually have enough resolve to look him dead in the face and mentally relay the Jimmy John’s slogan, which I feel is apt for the scenario: FREE SMELLS. As in: Let me ogle your basil in peace.
Fresh herbs feel super special to me, like they have to be purchased with purpose and not just to appease my nose/the guy behind the table. I’m thrilled if a recipe I’ve scouted calls for them, because otherwise those long delightful inhales at the market are as far as our relationship goes. At least, that was true until I realized you could put them in a salad. DUH. What a fool I’d been overlooking the fragrant, tender, leafy stuff of my dreams as a lettuce accouterment.
Now no plan is necessary, and if a few miscellaneous bunches strike my fancy or the herb guy is being particularly snarky, I throw down for them and head straight to Salad Town. The unique tastes of each herb will more than carry you in the flavor department, so dress the thing with a simple lemon juice and olive oil tag team, throw on some seeds for crunch, and you’re good to go.
Serves 3 as a side
3 heads Little Gem lettuce, rough ends lopped off, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced chives
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
Fresh ground pepper
Flaky sea salt
Photos by Alpha Smoot and James Ransom