Tips & Techniques

A Genius, Super-Refreshing Green Salad with 2 Curious Secret Ingredients

November 22, 2017

A simple green salad—even for us serious vegetable advocates—isn’t usually the thing that compels you to lunge for seconds. It’s not, say, brown butter butternut rolls or bacon gravy. But with this green salad, two dynamite secret ingredients nestled in its leaves, I’ve seen some lunges.

The recipe comes from Small Oven, a lovely little bakery in Easthampton, Massachusetts near my brother’s home. The bakery’s founders Amanda Milazzo (the “caker,” as she says) and Julie Copoulos (the baker) put as much care into their lunch menu as they do their pastries and flawlessly chewy-crusty breads. (And because many dishes unexpectedly come with a generous slab of fresh toast, I eat about half a loaf every time I go.)

This salad is mostly a big pile of leafy greens that taste far more exciting than they appear they will (thus, the lunges). Its sneaky pep comes from two surprising pantry goods you don’t normally see offered as mix-ins at the salad bar: preserved lemon rind and candied ginger.

They might sound curious together to you—they did to me—but these two feisty ingredients, once you’ve tried them, make perfect sense together. The salty, funky punch of preserved lemon is a match well-suited for candied ginger’s fiery, spicy-sweet chew. It’s one of those hits-all-the-notes combinations that doesn’t let you grow tired and keeps tugging you back, like a salted caramel cookie or good barbecue chips or spicy michelada with lots of lime.

“It's the perfect marriage of salty and sweet,” Milazzo and Copoulos wrote to me. “As bakers who favor savory treats, we have a lot of fun balancing both our confections and our lunch menu.” At lunch, they serve it with a particularly handsome slice of avocado toast, but you can leave that off if you’re serving with a side of turkey-everything else-bacon gravy instead.

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There’s a very good chance that you have both of these ingredients kicking around your pantry, bought from some long-gone tagine or molasses cookie. But if not, I’d recommend calling your guests ahead as an early bonding moment—I bet someone does, and has been looking for an excuse to use them.

A winning formula for salad that will energize—and not bore—you will be a boon year-round. But during holiday feasts (and when in recovery mode from holiday feasts) it’s an especially welcome invigorator—perhaps most of all because it won’t taste like any green salad anyone’s had before.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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Top Comment:
“This sounds so good - I was looking for a simple green salad for Thanksgiving and I think this will be perfect. By the way, I love the Wednesday Genius Recipe emails! Have a wonderful holiday!”
— Rhonda35

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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  • Stephanie B.
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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Stephanie B. February 17, 2018
I tweaked this recipe to go through the abundance of citrus I have. I used fresh kumquats instead of preserved lemons, and made the dressing from meyer lemon juice, and a little sweet lime juice, instead of vinegar. The citrus and candied ginger were so good together!
Rhonda35 November 22, 2017
This sounds so good - I was looking for a simple green salad for Thanksgiving and I think this will be perfect. By the way, I love the Wednesday Genius Recipe emails! Have a wonderful holiday!
Kristen M. November 22, 2017
Thanks so much, Rhonda! Happy Thanksgiving!
Rhonda35 November 22, 2017
Made this salad tonight - delicious!! Would be good with sturdier greens, too. Next time, I'll cut back on the oil a little and probably up the amount of thyme in the dressing. LOVED the ginger and lemon flavors!
CristyLeeNYC December 6, 2017
I agree. My husband and I liked the salad but I'll play around with the dressing ratios next time, will add some thyme directly to the salad, and will experiment with different greens (I think some massaged lacinato kale would be killer here). I DIY'd the candied ginger and it was all I could do to stop eating it directly off the rack so that it could actually make it to the salad!
Karan November 22, 2017
How do you make or do you buy preserved lemon?
Kristen M. November 22, 2017
It's easiest and quickest to buy preserved lemons (it's getting more common to find them at grocery stores these days, or at Middle Eastern markets), but you can also make them—just takes lemons, salt, and time!
okaykate November 22, 2017
This sounds so interesting! Any suggestions For what would be a good sub for the parm if feeding vegans?
Kristen M. November 22, 2017
There's enough well-rounded flavor here that you could just leave it out, or you could try substituting green olives or capers for a little extra salty something.
okaykate February 20, 2018
Way late here - but awesome suggestions, thank you!!!
Nancy November 22, 2017
Kristen, thank for this story and recipe. I like preserved lemon and have so far used it in (obvious) Middle Eastern recipes and (less obvious) Franco-Italian. But adding candied ginger brings in a whole new flavor palate. Looking forward to making this salad! Nancy
Kristen M. November 22, 2017
Thank you, Nancy! They're really surprisingly so appealing together. I hope you love it.