Renaissance Garden

Guest recipe by Francine Segan
Author of Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook

In Shakespeare's time salad was served tossed with dried fruit and nuts, making it especially sweet and healthful. The garnishes back then were interesting. Tall rosemary branches decorated with fresh cherry pairs were anchored in half lemons. It makes an ordinary salad very festive and makes any meal a special occasion. This salad is definitely one way to get your kids to eat their greens. Serves 6

1/4 cup fruit vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
6 cups assorted fresh herbs and baby lettuces (such as parsley, mint, endive, spinach, mesclun mix, tarragon, or marjoram)
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/4 cup currants
8 dates, quartered lengthwise
6 dried figs, thinly sliced
4 long, sturdy fresh rosemary branches, optional
2 large lemons, halved, optional
12 fresh or candied whole cherries, optional
2 large lemons, thinly sliced, optional
1/4 cup candied fruit peels, optional

Whisk together the verjus, oil, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Combine the herbs and lettuces, capers, raisins, almonds, currants, dates, and figs in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss until well coated.
If you are recreating the original salad presentation, press one rosemary branch into the rounded end of each lemon half. Using the stem, a wire, or ribbon, attach 3 cherries to each rosemary branch.
Invert a small bowl, dinner-roll or handful of croutons in the center of a very large serving platter for additional height. Arrange the salad mix over and around the bowl. Place the rosemary branches on the four sides of the platter and arrange the lemon slices and Candied Citrus Peel around the platter. 
For an even more elaborate traditional Elizabethan garnish, alternate lemon slices topped with capers with quartered hard-boiled eggs, candied orange peel, and egg "porcupines" made by inserting almond and date slivers into hard-boiled egg halves.