Many times when clients come to see me or I speak over the phone with them the one lament I hear regularly is “salad is so boring,” or “I don’t know what to eat, I’m fed-up with salad.” It’s true, a lettuce leaf, a tomato and a chunk of cucumber on a plate would not be tempting to even the most dedicated of salad eaters, a little dressing-up though makes all the difference.
I remember with fondness two maiden great-aunts, who knew how to dress-up and make the ordinary extra-ordinary. Occasionally, when I was very small and we were all together at my grandparents, Sunday afternoon tea would be turned into something magical when the dressing-up box was raided and all the old funny hats would come out, and the dressing-up clothes donned with the style of a 1920’s tea dance. We would then traipse up the lane in our finery with a picnic hamper and rug to just beyond the gate, where a very old car sat rusting, and the tea would be laid out and devoured like no other. Salmon sandwiches never tasted so good.
I’m not suggesting you eat al fresco with a funny old hat – although my sense of the quirky does make me think it would be fun, but rather with a little imagination the humble salad could become a magical feast, one to savour and enjoy.
By combining raw salad ingredients with lightly cooked veg a great foundation is laid for some splendid toppings, here are some ideas, once you give free reign to your imagination who knows what will happen:
Somehow the way you cut/slice/grate or chop something has a bearing on how it tastes, so go to town on a variety of methods in your salad. Mix in lightly steamed veg too, like broccoli. French beans slowly sautéed in a knob of butter with the saucepan lid firmly on so they end up being steamed in their own moisture along with a generous helping of chopped garlic and some powdered vegetable stock stirred through work well too.
Next dress the salad for its outing to the table:
For this example we had Chicken Jerk – a simple marinade that can be made up in advance and kept in the fridge with the chicken soaking up the lovely flavours before cooking in a pan with a glug of olive oil and adding to the salad.
Ingredients for the Jerk Marinade:
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp herb and spice mix – your choice
2 tsp brown sugar
juice of 1/2 sour orange or 1 lime or 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, squashed
We used two chicken breasts between the three of us since we were wanting to keep to the 8020 Living principal.
Finally to top it off we had a simple Mayonnaise and Mustard Dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 sour orange, or lemon or lime
Still needing ideas? Here’s another…
A similar salad ‘base’ to the previous one but this time topped with new potatoes in a French dressing of 2/3 olive oil to 1/3 fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.
Or, how about…
This sauce is really quick and easy to make and tastes wonderful. I brought with me, on our last journey back here, a tin of smoked paprika that we bought in central Spain one beautiful spring holiday, the earthy flavours bring back special memories for me. The little red tins are much more available in UK now, so look out for them, there are two types I am aware of Hot or Sweet, either would work with this. Failing availability of the Spanish paprika use what you can find in your local deli or supermarket.
Chicken in Sour Cream and Paprika Sauce
1 large onion sliced and sautéed in glug of olive oil until starting to turn golden.
Add 2 chicken breasts cut into thin strips, stir to coat in oil and continue cooking.
When the chicken is cooked through, which won’t take long at all stir in a small tub of sour cream, heat through to bubbling then turn off the heat. Stir into the sauce and chicken the paprika – I used a heaped teaspoon, but what you use will depend on the paprika you are using, the hot one for example will need to be used more sparingly – taste and see is the test. Add Himalayan Salt and black pepper to taste.
Incidentally, this goes rather well with rice and steamed broccoli.
I hope this has inspired you to get chopping and grating – let me know if you decide to go all the way and wear the hat too!