The 4th of July may be associated with hot dogs and hamburgers, coleslaw and potato salad, but we love to make a big herb-filled salad to serve alongside the more expected dishes.
Not only do herbs and greens aid in the digestion of less salubrious fare, but their flavors create a refreshing, aromatic foil to whatever you've got going on the grill.
A good salad depends on the vinaigrette, and any salad that's going to live alongside a 4th of July spread needs an assertive, garlicky and herbaceous dressing to stand up to the competition.
To make the vinaigrette, first use a small paring knife to peel two firm hard cloves of garlic. Along with a generous pinch of salt, pound the cloves in Alice's Mortar & Pestle until thoroughly pureed. Chiffonade 1/2 cup of basil leaves and 1/2 cup of tarragon leaves (plucked from their stems) and add them to the mortar, along with another modest pinch of salt, and pound until the leaves break down to form a verdant pulp. Add 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, the zest of a full lemon and ½ cup of olive oil. Whisk together and taste. It should be slightly saltier, more acidic, and more garlicky than you'd expect. The consistency should be quite loose — it needs more liquid, adjust with acid and oil. (Leftover dressing will keep for a day or two in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge.)
Wash an assortment of greens, leaning more heavily on heartier, refreshing varieties like Little Gems or Romaine hearts. Add several handfuls of whole mint leaves, plucked from their stems (your mix should be 1:3, mint to lettuce). Arrange your leaves in a wide, open bowl. Use a mandoline or sharp knife to finely slice several radishes. Slice a cup of ripe cherry tomatoes neatly through their stem scars. Slice a washed, unpeeled Persian cucumber in oblong rounds on the diagonal. Do the same with a handful of snap peas so that their peas are beautifully visible. Any fresh, crunchy seasonal vegetable you like to eat raw works well for this salad (including raw summer squash or zucchini, or small, tender carrots). Array your vegetables over your leaves and dress your salad just before serving, starting with just a few tablespoons at first, and adding more as needed.
Toss gently but thoroughly and serve immediately, waiting a few moments for the audible sounds of relief.