A green salad is almost always on the table at mealtime in Spain. Whether dining out at a restaurant or preparing a special meal at home, an ensalada mixta (mixed salad) is served on a large platter in the center of the table for all to enjoy. During the warm, summer months, Spaniards often enjoy a salad as a light lunch while dining al fresco.
This colorful, mixed green salad usually includes a combination of ingredients that Americans may find surprising, such as olives, tuna, and white asparagus, as well as tomatoes and onions. Easy to prepare, it is as tasty as it is attractive. The home cook may make it a bit more interesting than what you will find on Spanish restaurant menus, which is often simply lettuce, tomato, and onion. You can follow this recipe to the letter or improvise as you like.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 head lettuce (iceberg or romaine)
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 yellow or red onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 (6 oz.) can tuna
- 1 (15 oz.) can white asparagus
- 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts
- 1/2 cup green olives (preferably stuffed with anchovies)
- Optional: 1 (15 oz.) can baby corn (drained)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- Salt to taste
Hard boil the eggs. Allow them to cool in cold water. Peel and cut the eggs into quarters or slice into thick slices.
Cut the lettuce head in half. Rinse the lettuce under cold water and allow to drain. While it is draining, prep the vegetables. Quarter the tomatoes (so you have 8 pieces). Peel and slice the cucumbers and slice the peppers into long, thin strips. Thinly slice the onion and grate the carrot.
Open the cans of tuna, white asparagus, and artichoke hearts and drain each one well.
Break up the lettuce into small pieces for a salad. Make a bed of lettuce on a large platter.
On top of the bed, place the tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and carrots.
Spread the tuna around the bed of lettuce, breaking it up into small chunks with a fork.
Place the egg slices, asparagus, artichoke hearts, olives, and baby corn ears (if using) on top.
Dress with oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt to taste.
Make It Your Own
This is one of those recipes that is absolutely open to interpretation—don't worry if you are missing one or more of the ingredients. Each family in Spain has their own version of ensalada mixta, so it is slightly different in every household. Feel free to add your own fresh ingredients from your kitchen or garden and give it a unique spin as well.
If you are looking for some inspiration, other popular ingredients you can add are anchovies, avocados, black olives, potatoes, and scallions. For the dressing, some people prefer a sherry vinaigrette while others mix lemon juice and chopped cilantro into the olive oil.