Sunday, 4 January 2009

I *heart* salad.

Eat your vegetables, and you'll grow up big and strong and be recruited for such prestigious secret international organizations as SSOV, like me.

Salads are so misunderstood. I blame the limp lettuce leaves and cardboard-tasting hothouse tomatoes swimming in tasteless oil that pass for "salad" in most people's lives. It's tragic, really. Here are some downright untragic ideas that are simple and yummy and probably just the ticket after you've finished off the last of the decadent holiday leftovers. Ideally, salads should be fresh, flavourful, exciting, crunchy goodness. Make them nice and big...they can constitute the main dish of a meal... just add soup or some bread and hummous or peanut butter or whatever and you have a lovely lovely dinner, after which you'll feel good. The key is to go to the grocery store or farmer's market, see what looks good and THEN decide what to make. Do as little as possible to the nicest in-season produce, and it will be delicious. Another key is to go easy on the dressing. If you actually need to smother your salad in dressing in order to make it yummy, you've bought bad produce. Don't do that. Keep in mind that in-season produce is usually the cheapest, and it's often worth (both taste and money wise) to go with what's in season rather than making that simple tomato salad in mid-January. Savour the tomatoes in the summer when they taste like heaven. Right now, enjoy citrus, cabbage, beets... mmmmmmmmm.....

The salads:

Fennel, sliced really thin, with sections of grapefruit. Add salt, pepper, a mild vinegar (I used bramble, but apple cider would also work) and depending on the tartness of your grapefruit, a little bit of maple syrup or agave nectar.

Mixed greens (substantial ones...rocket/arugula, radicchio, dark green lettuce, spinach or finely chopped kale) with as many fresh herbs as you can muster (any or all off basil, mint, oregano, parsley, coriander). Cherry tomatoes if you can find them, roasted red peppers if you can't (ie- if it's winter) Dress with your best vinegar and some really good olive oil, easy on the oil, okay? For an oil-free option, dress with vinegar, pomegranite molasses, garlic, salt and pepper. I prefer the oil-free version.

Chopped cabbage and lettuce with thinly sliced apples or pears, grated or thinly sliced carrots, grilled fennel (optional) and pomegranite seeds or grapes or even raisins. If you want to make a full meal of this, add some cooked or baked chickpeas. Dressing: a decent dollop of mustard (dijon is fun here, but keep in mind it will be clear-your-sinuses hot), maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, pepper.

Grated beets (baked if you want, raw if you want), cooked puy lentils, chopped walnuts. Dress with balsamic vinegar, lots of black pepper and a tiny bit of grated garlic, and some fresh dill if you can get it. If the beets aren't very sweet, you may want to add some maple syrup, but taste it first, because beets can be surprisingly sweet. If you have truffle oil, feel free to mix a few drops in. Alternately, drizzle some tahini on top. Or add some chopped capers. This is especially good with a few olives on the side. It also makes a kickass stuffing for baked onions or big mushrooms.

Raw kale (rub with salt, rinse, chop) or cooked chopped kale, finely chopped raw onions, a little bit of chopped garlic and/or ginger, cilantro, underripe chopped mango or any other sweet orange fruit that you fancy (I've used persimmons, oranges, guava...whatever/ Basically kale with mango salsa. This is a great way to use the mangoes that are taunting all of us from the shelves right now, if you want to pretend like it's summer....Just add some dry-roasted cumin and salt (if you've cooked rather than salted the kale). In the summer, add chopped tomatoes as well. This is lovely with grilled tofu, by the way.

Finally, something really light. Cucumbers, a whack of chopped fresh mint, lemon juice and either strawberries (in the summer) or ridiculously thin slices of asian pear (in the winter). You can also blend everything together and add vodka or gin for a slightly less healthy approach to this one. Be sure to seed the cucumber first if you do that. I highly recommend using Hendriks and just a tiny dash of rosewater if you go for the gin slush. The slush version can also take advantage of frozen strawberries, even in the dead of winter.

Music for chop-chop-chopping away to: The Gorey End, by the Kronos Quartet and the Tiger Lillies.


Gina said...

I agree, salads have gotten an ugly rap.

Funny, I just bought fennel and grapefruit today for a salad tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you've pretty much quoted my sentiments on salad to a tee. I am a big fan of ditching gross dressings for either a splash of lime juice, or rosewater, or both, especially on fruity salads. And if you can't taste the veg over the dressing, you're doing it wrong. I have horror stories of over-dressing-ed salads, but I don't want to scar anyone.

medici said...

I'm also a recent convert to splashing oil-free dressings onto my green salads. It's such a lovely way to play with the tastes of the greens, and my mouth feels better, too (not coated with oil). Yum.