By Naomi Crisanteon 20th Jan 2014 10:43
Summer is here and the living is easy! How lovely it is to toss together a light, fresh salad for a meal, instead of spending hours cooking in the kitchen.
Beyond the everyday, average garden variety salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber, I like to experiment with my ingredients to create a salad that is just that little bit different.
The body of the salad might begin with leaves – lettuce, rocket, spinach or a gourmet salad mix – but this just the base. I make sure to wash and spin dry them to remove any excess water because no one wants a soggy salad!
Now I want to add colour, texture and flavour.
Fresh produce, like tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and carrot are often staples, but I look to other less used vegetables, like beetroot or asparagus or roast pumpkin for a point of difference. Even fruit, fresh figs, char grilled nectarines or mango are a perfect summery addition.
I then build on it by adding beans, chick peas, toasted nuts, seeds and/or fresh leafy herbs, like basil, parsley or coriander, or maybe some olives, capers or canned fish such as flaked tuna, salmon or a few anchovies.
The dressing is all important but should be done at the last minute. I always gently toss the salad with extra virgin olive oil first until every ingredient is well coated and glistening. Then I will add the acid – lemon juice or, usually, vinegar. I always do this by eye and to taste, so there is just enough to give vibrancy to the salad without overwhelming the delicate flavours of the salad vegetables themselves. A little seasoning and you are good to go. If I want a flavoured dressing, I will shake oil and vinegar together in a jar, in a 3:1 ratio, together with mustard, sweet chilli sauce or even a little chutney or relish for a flavour burst. For a change, an infused olive oil, flavoured with orange, basil or even truffle, drizzled over a simple salad of greens is just enough.
Here are some of my favourite salad combinations that I will be turning to this summer and I am sure that, depending on what is in my fridge and pantry, I will come up with many more surprising ones before the season is over…such fun!
- Chick peas, rocket, roasted capsicum and feta with chilli pesto
- Roast or char grilled chicken, spinach leaves, coriander, mango, cashews and dressing of olive oil, lemon and a little mango chutney
- Kipfler potatoes, tuna, char grilled capsicum, red onion, basil leaves, olives, anchovies and pesto dressing
- Smoked salmon, rocket, avocado, spring onion, capers and pistachios with orange infused oil
- Radicchio, fresh figs, jamon, goat’s cheese and pine nuts with balsamic glaze
- Cannellini beans, sliced carrot, orange segment, coriander and orange and extra virgin olive oil dressing