6 Jul 2009

Pimp My Salad

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In many ways the BYO food-party is a great invention. It’s economic, eclectic and sometimes it’s even exciting. But, and here’s the catch, far too often “I’ll bring a salad” really does just mean that someone will bring a salad. Salad. As in lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and maybe even some tinned corn. Yawn! There’s just no excuse for that. Throwing together a great salad is the easiest thing in the world and it doesn’t even take a recipe. Just round up your favourite fruit and vegetables, slice them up nicely and bam! You’ve got a money shot.
Still, I know that the creative juices don’t always come a-flowin’ when we want them to and that’s why I’ve jotted down a few ways for you to pimp up your fresh salad:

FRUIT
There’s no end to the delight an unexpected slice of melon or apple will bring to an otherwise boring assembly of veggies. I personally prefer apples because I always seem to have them lying around the kitchen (and I like the crunch), but melons, strawberries, apricots, nectarines, plums, pink grape, oranges, grapes etc. are great too. And don’t underestimate the power of colourplay on the plate. It does wonders for the appetite.

SEEDS & NUTS
I always love balancing the crunch and juice of the vegetables, the sweetness and tangy-ness of the fruit with a nutty touch. Whether it be in the shape of peeled and roasted almonds, soy-salted sunflower seeds or just plain sesame seeds, it’s all good. Plus, if you have roasted them and toss them into the salad bowl shortly before serving it, the heat from the nuts tend to bring out the other flavours in the salad. Very Jamie Oliver.

HERBS
Especially in summer salads fresh dill, basil, coriander, mint, chives etc. can bring some delicate and more complex flavours to the mixture. Dill is great with apples and celery, coriander in just about everything and basil is lovely with sweet ingredients. For the dry kind, crushed rose pepper works well with grapes and dried rosemary/Provence spices are great for a salad with chunks of roasted chicken. Naturally, any salad needs a slight touch of salt and pepper too.

JUICES
Finally, you’ve assembled the perfect salad and just want it all to blend together. I would recommend that you go slow on the oils and hit the more fruity or acidy liquids. They tend to keep the salad fresh for longer and you don’t get that greasy feeling afterwards. A tablespoon of elderflower cordial or some white balsamic vinegar makes for a delicious “blender”, but you can experiment with any number of juices from apples, oranges, lime fruit, raspberries, red currants etc.

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even begun talking about real dressings and salads with meat or yogurt/other kinds of “coating”. That’ll have to wait for another time. Until then, chop along and bring a salad that’s pleasing to the eye and the imagination, as well as the palate.

For more inspiration I can really recommend the book on salads by the Danish chef and food entrepreneur Claus Meyer called Claus Meyers Salatværksted (as far as I know, it’s only in Danish).

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