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what makes a good salad?

tips to make the best homemade saladsWhat makes a salad stand out? Last night, fondly enough, as I was preparing a salad (it was a scorcher of a day) I pondered the same thing.  I looked at the ingredients laid out before me:  avocado, leftover grilled steak, cherry tomatoes, fresh sugar snap peas, leftover grilled broccolini, and chilled lettuce leaves picked the day before from my garden.  This was the foundation for what my salad would look like.  But how does a salad go from plain Jane lettuce leaves to something tasty enough, you cannot wait for the next mouthful?

Here’s my answer to the question; build the layers.  A typical salad starts with lettuce (or seasonal greens) and the leaves need to be washed and pat dry with paper towel.  The best way to wash the leaves is in a bowl of cool water or in a sink.  Gently massaging the leaves helps remove any dirt; there’s nothing worse than chomping down on grit!  Next are the textures.  They add more oomph with a crunch here (cucumber, nuts, apples) juicy taste there (tomatoes, fruit) and something chewy to sink your teeth into (meat, legumes).  Textures add their own flavours without having to use heavy dressings. Herbs tossed in also add a unique flavour profile to any salad.

When planning the ingredients for your next salad, consider the six tastes of food:  sour (yoghurt, fermented foods), salty (natural salts, sea vegetables), astringent (legumes, raw fruits), bitter (dark leafy greens, herbs & spices), pungent (chili peppers, garlic), sweet (fruit).  According to Ayurvedic nutrition, ‘our tastebuds do much more than simply identify tastes; they unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process’.

I mentioned above that a typical salad starts with lettuce, but it doesn’t always have to.  Barley is a staple grain that I always have on hand.  When the mercury hits 30c (86f), I spend less time in the kitchen.  Barley is easy to prepare and has a chewy, pasta-like texture – perfect substitute for rice.

2 cups cooked barley
1 zucchini
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, wide slices
handful string beans, grilled and roughly chopped
1 avocado, roughly chopped
1 ear of corn, cooked in the microwave or grilled
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
fresh mint, chopped
handful Kalamata olives pitted and roughly chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
dukkah (optional)

Slice zucchini lengthways (about 1/4″ thick).  In a bowl toss zucchini slices and bell pepper slices with a splash of olive oil and season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper.  Grill until zucchini has softened.  Remove from grill and place on cutting board.  Roughly chop zucchini and bell peppers.  Use a knife to remove corn from the cob.  In another large bowl add cooked barley, zucchini, garlic, bell pepper, string beans, avocado, corn kernels, mint and olives.  Toss to combine then add tomatoes.  Add a splash of olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  Give it a gentle stir and season to taste.

We eat with our eyes so when the salad is served, think of how colour plays its part in making the dish look appetizing.  If you don’t fancy the idea of crumbled feta, sprinkle some homemade dukkah over the top of the salad or chopped roasted nuts.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  My dressings are always light and a cinch to make plus easy on the pocketbook.  Try experimenting with sushi rice vinegar or flavoured olive oils for a delicious taste.  Enjoy!

what makes a good salad?
 
Author:
Recipe type: salad
Serves: 2 to 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked barley
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, wide slices
  • handful string beans, grilled and roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado, roughly chopped
  • 1 ear of corn, cooked in the microwave or grilled
  • cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • fresh mint, chopped
  • handful Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • white balsamic vinegar
  • feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • dukkah (optional)
Instructions
  1. Slice zucchini lengthways (about ¼″ thick). In a bowl toss zucchini slices and bell pepper slices with a splash of olive oil and season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Grill until zucchini has softened. Remove from grill and place on cutting board. Roughly chop zucchini and bell peppers. Use a knife to remove corn from the cob. In another large bowl add cooked barley, zucchini, garlic, bell pepper, string beans, avocado, corn kernels, mint. Toss to combine then add tomatoes. Add a splash of olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Give it a gentle stir and season to taste.
  2. We eat with our eyes so when the salad is served, think of how colour plays its part in making the dish look appetizing. If you don’t fancy the idea of crumbled feta, sprinkle some homemade dukkah over the top of the salad or chopped roasted nuts.
  3. The Culinary Chase’s Note: My dressings are always light and a cinch to make plus easy on the pocketbook. Try experimenting with sushi rice vinegar or flavoured olive oils for a delicious taste. Enjoy!

 

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