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Greens are back! Mixed Green Salad with Sunflower Thyme Pesto

Greens, I have missed you! After a winter of cabbage and root vegetables, I was DYING for a big green salad. Armenia has great tomatoes and cucumbers already, but they don’t really have a green salad tradition. I knew the first thing I would make once home would be a ridiculously huge salad.

We weren’t able to go to the market on Saturday because of a wedding (congratulations!!), so we went to the much smaller Monday market yesterday. Luckily, there was still a great selection of beautiful dark leafy greens and herbs and we bought a lot – two bunches of Swiss chard, one of red Russian kale, one of collard greens, one of komatsuna, and a bag each of spinach and arugula. This is pretty typical of us in the summer, but does take a little advanced planning. To minimize waste, we try to stick to the following rules:

  1. When we get home, we wash and dry the greens before we put them away. We wrap them in big tea towels and then pack them in special reusable plastic bags, but you could use paper towels and regular plastic bags as long as they’re clean and dry. We also prep them by picking out any less than perfect leaves and removing stems and chopping, if necessary. This does take some time on Saturday morning, but it saves a lot of time during the week and makes it more likely that we’ll cook at home instead of ordering take out.
  2. If we’re planning to eat any of the greens raw, e.g. in a salad, we do it early in the week. As greens age, they get more bitter and less tender.
  3. If we’re planning any recipes where cooked greens are the star of the show, we make those by mid-week. The greens can wait a little longer, since they’re cooked.
  4. Finally, if we have any greens left at the end of the week, we cook them and use them as an accent, e.g. pizza topping or frittata.

As an example, here’s our meal plan for the week:

  • Mixed green salad with sunflower thyme pesto (Monday)
  • Swiss chard with pinenuts and grain (Tuesday)
  • Herb salad with curry dressing (Wednesday)
  • Asparagus with “cheezy” sauce (Thursday)
  • Mashed sweet potatoes with ribbons of collard greens (Friday)

This salad is based on a recipe from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen and definitely hit the spot last night. It’s hearty enough for dinner and a great introduction to raw dark leafy greens, if you’re a little hesitant. We used olive oil in the dressing, but realized right after we poured it in that we should have used our local sunflower oil. Next time! The recipe makes 4 large servings, but only dress what you plan to eat right away to avoid soggy greens. Don’t be too worried about the exact proportion of the greens. We used about the same amount of each type, but it’s not an exact science. It’s okay if a bunch of kale is smaller than a box/bag of arugula or whatever.

Mixed Green Salad with Sunflower Thyme Pesto
Makes 4 large servings

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
1 bunch Kale Use red russian kale if you can find it, otherwise Tuscan/dinosaur/lacinato kale Lani’s Farm *
1 bunch Mustard greens We used komatsuna, which was very tender. Lani’s Farm *
1 bunch Spinach Or several handfuls, if loose Lani’s Farm *
1 bunch Arugla Or several handfuls, if loose Lani’s Farm *
4 TBsp Fresh thyme Strip the leaves off the stem by pinching your fingers around the stem and gently pulling down Lani’s Farm *
2 cloves Garlic Finely chopped Keith’s Farm *
1 cup Oil We used olive oil, but would use sunflower oil next time
1 cup Sunflower seeds
1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt


  1. Remove the stems and ribs from the mustard greens and chop both the mustard greens and kale into 1/2-inch ribbons (see directions here).
  2. Tear the spinach and arugula into bite-sized pieces and remove the stems, if they’re thick or annoy you (as they do Erik).

  3. Put the greens into a big mixing bowl and toss to distribute everything evenly. If you don’t plan to eat the whole salad, put the amount you want to save back in the refrigerator.

  4. Add all the dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until it is as smooth as you’d like. I like it a little chunky. It will be thick like pesto.

  5. Pour the dressing over the greens, remembering to save some of the dressing if you’ve saved some of the greens, and toss thoroughly. You might need to spread it around a little bit, because the dressing with want to clump in the middle of the salad. Refrigerate any extra dressing for up to four days.

  6. Let the salad sit for about 10 minutes to allow the greens to soften a bit. Then chow down!

After eating this, I felt like my body was reset after all the travel and restaurant food of my business trip. Bring on summer!!

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