Summer was made for salads. Or is it that salads were made for summer? Our summer has been incredibly hot, tropical and steamy; far too hot for cooking. I seem to be able to bear the heat for cake making (like this one, summer fruit skillet cake) but not for regular cooking. Priorities? 😉
So, what’s the secret of a good salad? In my opinion it’s all about balance. Here are the flavours and textures you want to include, with examples:
Neutral base: Greens or rice or pasta or beans
Sweet ‘n’ juicy: Cherry tomatoes, apple, pear, roasted carrot, roasted eggplant
Protein: Chicken, bacon, feta, mozzarella
Salty: Shards of parmesan, tiny slices of preserved lemon
Sour & Pickled: Capers, pickled ginger, quick-pickled radish
Herb: Mint, oregano, dill, parsley
Texture: toasted pine nuts, croutons, toasted rice, crushed peanuts
You could add some of these aspects by throwing on a sauce or dressing, but I think the best salads have these components as direct ingredients. Plus, nothing worse than a soggy, overdressed salad.
Finally, make sure to season your salad. If it needs it- taste first! – add a bit of olive oil and vinegar.
So, with that “formula” in mind, here is my current favourite summer salad –
Beetroot, Feta, Caper-berries & Fennel Flower Salad
Base: Cooked beetroot cut into quarters
Sweet ‘n’ juicy: apple cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
Protein: soft feta, broken into chunks
Salty: a couple of pieces of preserved lemon, sliced
Sour & Pickled: caper-berries, stalks removed and cut in half
Herb: Mint leaves, torn + a few soft fennel fronds
Texture: Fresh fennel flower tops (tear the tops off small, soft ones)
Season: salt + pepper
My fennel is giving me more flowers than I know what to do with and I love the little pops of aniseed flavour they give to this salad. You’ll need to use the small, soft, baby flower heads as the more mature flowers can be too overpowering. If you don’t have fennel flowers in your garden you could try toasted cumin seeds or sesame seeds, toasted pinenuts or croutons. Apple cucumber can be substituted with regular cucumber. Preserved lemon can be left out if you don’t have it but if you do – please use it! Preserved lemon – salty, jammy and tangy – is my new addiction.
What is your “formula” for a perfect salad? What is your current favourite salad?