I am not sure how I won the title Salad Queen. Over the years my friends and family have taken a special liking to the way I spontaneously create salads. I wish I could say I have a set recipe but I can honestly tell you that not one of my salads ever turns out the same. I am sadly not a recipe follower, I’m more gypsy in the kitchen. When I am asked to bring a salad I always ask the host, “sweet or savory,” because that is always my creative starting point. My go to greenery is usually arugula (roquette to my french amies!), romaine for the crunch, and mache or spinach to add variety. The more greens, the better! One of my secrets is the lettuces should always be dry. I trust the “triple-washed” label on the salad boxes at Whole Foods and dump directly into salad bowl. I also invest in a high quality olive oil, vinegar, salt (either fleur de sel or Kosher salt), and block of Parmesan Reggiano. Make no mistake, there is a difference between an American-fabricated Parmesan and a true Italian Parmesan (check the rind!) The only place I know besides an Italian specialty store is Whole Foods that actually slices blocks off a true round of Parmesan from Italy. I also have either a raisin or cranberry walnut bread or an olive rosemary bread on hand to make the quickest croutons ever! My best advice is color, variety of textures, and tastes.
I laugh because my salads should be called “all but the kitchen sink,” but that’s what makes them fun to eat. You never know what you may find in one of my salad bowls! There is truly nothing more unappealing and lacking in creativity than a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, chunks of carrots, and tomatoes covered in bottled salad dressing! No wonder salads get such a bad rap. When in actuality, they can be the most inspiring and colorful offering at the dinner table!
This week I’ll offer up a “Sweet” Salad:
- Parmessan (use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of cheese to scatter on top at the end)
- Sliced apples (think bright red, or Granny Smith green) with skin on.
- Walnuts, Cashews, or your favorite nut (if I have time, I will quickly throw them in a pot with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and honey for a sweet crunch, lay out on tin foil to cool)
- Avocado (a staple, because gives salad a butter-like quality, not too mention it’s so good for the skin!)
- Choose one: Montmorency dried cherries, dried apricots (cut into smaller pieces), dried cranberries
- Haricot Vert (these are the french thin beans, throw in boiling salt water and take out before they are fully cooked, I even throw ice over them, you want them to retain their crunch)
- Salads can be meals if you add sliced chicken, steak, or toss in beans. I prefer to add green peas, garbanzo beans, or edamame)
- Home-made Croutons: Take the specialty bread (I have been known in a pinch to just do sourdough or a french baguette too!) Cut bread in chunks and lay on a piece of tin foil on a baking sheet. Generously cover the bread in olive oil, Kosher salt, and Herbes de Provence, put on broil for literally 2-3 minutes. Watch out, I am known for burning bread! But the key is that they are crispy, but not burned!
- Salad dressing: In a pinch, there is nothing better than a generous pouring of olive oil over the salad, the squeezing of a lime or lemon, a dressing of good, coarse salt, and ground pepper. But if you have time, try mixing Apple Cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, Herbes de Provence, some orange juice, and generous pouring of maple syrup. Mix them with a whisk for taste. You want it to be sweet! Also, less is always more when it comes to salad dressing!
- Order for Salad: Greenery, green beans, beans, dried fruit, fresh fruit, avocado(I usually squeeze lime over my apples and avocado to keep them from turning brown and it gives a nice flavor in salad), nuts, cheese, salad dressing, toss, and then scatter the croutons on top! Enjoy!