Summer is the time for simple tasty food. Healthy salad greens, tomatoes, fresh fruits, cold meats, and cheeses are perfect for the cook and the menu on hot balmy days.
Classical Roman salads were simple — salted vegetables eaten with a dressing of oil and vinegar. In medieval times salads composed of green leaves — and sometimes flowers — were drizzled with lemon juice. Later in England, oranges and lemons were used as salad garnishes. Today the salad has become a showcase for to all sorts of exotic ingredients enhanced with wondrous dressings.
Dressings for crisp seasonal greens should be light enough to just coat the leaves. There should be enough to create a little pizzazz but not so much the leaves wilt — added just before serving.
A classic vinaigrette has a ratio of one part acid — for example vinegar or lemon juice — to three parts oil. I normally use a good New Zealand extra virgin oil.
Hearty salads — for example, those with chunky diced capsicums, pasta, potatoes or cooked meats — are best dressed with thicker concoctions such as traditional mayo — maybe with a little added mustard, wasabi or chilli — or vinaigrettes containing a generous addition of chopped herbs or seeds and spices.
MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN SALAD
I made the croutons from a French baguette cutting it into cubes of about 2cm. I used For the Love of Tams Tamarillo Vinaigrette — it doesn't contain oil.
Croutons: 2 cups bread croutons
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Salad: 1 large cos lettuce
2 cups (225g) coarsely shredded cooked chicken
100g drained bocconcini
1/2 cup good vinaigrette
2 roasted red capsicums (from a jar)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Toss the croutons in the olive oil. Place on an oven tray. Season. Bake for 2 minutes, stir well and continue baking until crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Cool.
Tear the lettuce into 4-5cm pieces. Wash then crisp in the fridge while preparing the remainder.
Drizzle the chicken and bocconcini with a little vinaigrette.
Drain the capsicums well. Cut into thin strips. Pat dry.
Place the cos in a shallow serving bowl. Top with the chicken, bocconcini, capsicums, olives, capers and croutons. Serve the dressing on the side. Serves 4.
Bacon, lettuce, avocado and lettuce salad.
2 rashers middle bacon
4-6 thick slices baguette
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 cups mesclun
1/2 cup different coloured cocktail tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, halved, stoned, peeled and sliced
1 spring onion, sliced diagonally
Mustard Dressing: 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard.
Pan-fry the bacon until crisp. Cool slightly then break or cut into 3cm pieces.
Place the baguette slices on a grilling tray. Combine the oil and garlic and brush both sides of the bread. Grill for about 2 minutes each side, until golden. Cool.
Arrange the mesclun in a shallow serving bowl. Tuck the toasted bread around the outside. Top the leaves with the bacon, tomatoes, avo and spring onion. Drizzle with the combined dressing ingredients. Serves 2.
ISRAELI COUSCOUS, SALMON & PEACH SALAD
Quick and tasty.
1 cup Israeli couscous
400g salmon fillets, pin bones removed
salt and pepper to taste
4 ripe peaches, halved, stoned, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions. Drain well. Transfer to a large serving bowl or platter. Cool, stirring occasionally.
Brush a large non-stick frying pan with oil. Season the salmon. Pan-fry for 2 minutes each side or until just cooked in the centre. Transfer to a plate. Cool for 5 minutes. Using two forks, break into largish chunks.
Meanwhile, place the peaches in a bowl and drizzle with half the orange juice.
Arrange the salmon, peaches, pomegranate seeds and mint on the couscous. Drizzle with the remaining orange juice. Toss to combine. Serves 4.