A Trio of Summer Salads
Well, it seems as though we are in the midst of a really good stretch of good weather (although as I am writing this it is steadily drizzling, which is actually offering some welcome relief). Schools are out and timetables have changed (for me anyway), from the maniacal rush from work to school and after-school activities to a slightly more relaxed pace. One thing that has increased, however, is the supply of food throughout the day for more than just me!
My general approach to cooking is having occasional bursts of preparation, assembling dishes which can last a couple of days, re-inventing themselves along the way in the form of left-overs (which somehow always seem to taste better than the main event anyway).
I like to have a few salads on the go at any time which can be grabbed and mixed together for packed lunches for work-days or picnics or to serve as side dishes with dinner in the evening. They are also handy if you have better things to do in the evening than cooking; for us it’s normally playing or watching sport (I know we will be avidly watching the Olympics now that the Tour de France is over) and I just don’t have time every night to sweat over the stove. You do have to learn to be a bit experimental with the ingredients you have to hand, but the basic rules are to ensure you have a good spread of colour, texture and flavour – otherwise they all become a bit ‘samey’. For dressings, you can’t go wrong with an equal amount of oil (rapeseed, olive or avocado work well) and acid (lemon juice or a good wine or balsamic vinegar) plus an extra burst of flavour if you like (mustard, pesto or chilli for example). I use an old, clean jam jar and throw everything in it with some salt, pepper and fresh herbs and give it a good shake together before serving.
Salads are also great for barbecues and if you have someone who likes to take control of the grill, then you can focus on the salads yourself. You can even assemble the ‘meatier’ ones the day before if you like (leaf-based salads don’t keep, especially dressed ones). They are also nice to take with you as an offering if someone else is doing the hard work.
The following salads are quick to assemble and require a minimum amount of effort (and skill!). They will last a couple of days too, which is great if you are on-the-go (you could layer them up in a kilner jar if you like – I’ve seen lots of postings of that approach on food blogs.... or a Tupperware box will suffice!). I have tried to include some nice summer herbs such as mint and chives, which are great to have in pots by the kitchen door and again require no skill, even for the most reluctant of gardeners (I fall into that camp!). My two girls scoffed all these happily for tea with some home-made pizza (using pre-made ‘cheat’ bases) and declared them a great success. Clean plates are always the best vote of appreciation!
Have happy holidays, if you are taking them in August.
500g waxy new potatoes (I used Lady Crystal variety)
1-2 tbsp whole grain mustard
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
Freshly ground salt and pepper
2 spring onions, finely sliced (or you could use sliced red onion)
4 chive stalks, finely chopped
Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the potatoes until they are cooked but still firm. Drain them and leave them to cool. Chop them into large chunks and put them into a large bowl.
Mix the dressing ingredients together and gently toss the potatoes until they are all coated, adding the spring onions and chives.
You can serve this warm if you like (or you can’t wait for the potatoes to cool down!)
Minted Pea, Bean, Rocket and Goat’s Cheese Salad
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, cooked
1 cup fresh or frozen broad beans, cooked (if fresh, remove the beans from their tough outer shells once cooked)
100g hard goat’s cheese (or feta), crumbled/chopped into rough chunks
1 handful fresh mint leaves, shredded
1 handful rocket
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1-2 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp chilli oil (or a few flakes of dried chilli/finely chopped fresh red chilli)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Put all the other ingredients into a bowl and gently toss everything in the dressing so that everything is well-coated.
‘Veggie’ Caesar Salad
6-8 leaves cos or romaine lettuce, cleaned and roughly sliced
½ cup pecans dry-fried in a frying pan until lightly toasted (or you can use more traditional croutons if you prefer)
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp horseradish sauce
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh anchovies (as a non-veggie alternative)
Ensure that the salad leaves are dry (you can wipe off any soil rather than washing them or if you do wash them use a salad spinner to get rid of any remaining moisture).
Stir together the horseradish sauce, oil and pepper. Gently toss the leaves in the dressing (I use my hands for this). Sprinkle over the toasted pecans and serve immediately with the anchovies (if using).