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A Mix of Greens

Serve Salads for 6

Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page M07

I love to make salads. They are healthful, easy to prepare and, of course, delicious. Whether I serve salad as an appetizer, entree or side dish, it is always an important and integral part of the meal, adding flavor, texture and beauty.

Green salads have undergone quite a revolution. The days of making a salad with a wedge of iceberg lettuce and bottled dressing are long gone. Today's ingredients can be a simple-but-artful composition of greens and handmade vinaigrette, or they can lean toward the exotic: duck breast, bay scallops or fresh figs. The possibilities for creating sensational salads are endless.

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Until recently, salads were kind of a culinary afterthought -- not the flavorful mix of greens and other inventive ingredients that come to mind today. I keep rediscovering the pleasures of earthy flavors found in seasonal produce. Freshness is at the heart and soul of the perfect salad, so take advantage of each season's bounty of vegetables.

Salads always play a big part in my menus, no matter what the occasion calls for. Make the most of your ingredients and allow each and every one of them to shine -- whether it's a delicious and simple concoction like Watermelon, Cucumber & Mint Salad for a refreshing afternoon snack, an elegant side salad like Green Bean, Yellow Bean & Red Pepper Salad or an fantastic main-course dish such as Grilled Chicken, Black Bean, Corn & Avocado Salad. The point is to entertain in a relaxed manner and use the best ingredients you can find. Enjoy!

Excerpted and adapted from "Sensational Salads" by Barbara Scott-Goodman (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $22.50).

Sensational Salads

Grilled Chicken,

Black Bean, Corn

& Avocado Salad

3 whole chicken breasts (about 3 pounds), split

Juice of 2 lemons

Juice of 2 limes

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

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