One of the surprise highlights from a recent overnight business trip to London was a fantastic salad prepared by my generous host, a social media superstar and fellow swimmer / food lover.
The salad: a nicoise-style affair with boiled egg, green beans, olives, new potatoes, balsamic and oil. Substantial, but light and refreshing. Dinner in a bowl.
Ever since I’ve been on a salad kick, at first emulating my friend’s creation, and slowly evolving the mix with various vinaigrettes, seasonal veg, assorted add-ons and lots of fresh herbs.
But there’s something more to this salad kick than inspiration. Maybe it’s the time of year – the long, sporadically sunny days, have me craving fresh, raw crunchy veg. Or maybe it’s the convenience – I can knock together a killer salad in the 20 minutes it takes to boil some new potatoes and hard-boiled eggs.
There’s added incentive to be found in the garden, where my salad crops remain so far the most successful veg in this year’s feeble gardening attempt. I’ve got rocket growing like a weed, a perpetual supply of perpetual spinach and radishes practically bursting from the soil.
My singular disappointment is this tray of “rocket”, which really never looked like rocket at all, despite what the seed packet claimed. Whatever it was, the leaves never developed into anything larger than the size of my thumb (and I have small thumbs). Still, I harvested the leaves anyway, and in the end got a decent bowl of “micro greens” to add to my various salad creations.
My current vinaigrettes of choice are: balsamic and olive oil, lemon juice and olive oil, and mustard vinaigrette (a la Bittman). The salads themselves typically involve some combination of at least five of the following ingredients:
- Boiled egg, almost always
- Chickpeas, occasionally
- Lots of fresh herbs, especially dill and oregano (together or separate)
- Capers, especially when there’s dill involved
- Olives, memories of the good ol’ nicoise
- Blanched asparagus, tis the season
- Boiled new potatoes, tossed with the dressing while still warm
- Raw broccoli, one of my favourite things
- Sweet cherry tomatoes
- Parmesan, particularly with a lemon & oil dressing and fresh oregano
- Avocado, but I like avocado on everything
- Crispy lettuce leaves like little gems or romaine
- Salt and pepper
The trick to all this seems to be a few things: good ingredients – not just high-quality veg, but also good vinegar and oil – plus sufficient use of dressing and seasoning (salt, pepper and herbs). Beyond that, anything goes really.
What’s in your favourite salad?