I know that there is a chance that you will have stopped reading once you read the five letter word in the title and I know that it seems a bit odd to follow a BBQ Carnivore blog with its Salad Omnivore counterpart but as with everything in life, balance is key. Here goes…
With the soaring temperatures suffocating us into the early hours of the morning, an absolute essential antidote to the summer heat is replacing water lost through perspiration. We drink more fluids (sometimes more alcoholic than thirst-quenching but the intention is there) and we turn to food which has a higher water content. And what food has got a higher water content to volume ratio? Lettuce. There, I said it, lettuce.
In hot climates, salads are not just full of water but delicious; they are colourful and made with natural ingredients that have been kissed by the long periods of sunshine until their ripe juices are ready to burst.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans dined on mixed green leaves as a way of putting water back into their diet. They served their mixed leaves with a dressing of olive oil and brine as replacing lost minerals is also necessary – not too dissimilar from the salad dressings used nowadays.
Salad, from the Latin ‘sal’ salted; ‘salted things’ roughly translated into ‘salted herb.’
Ancient Times had their ‘mixed greens’, the Renaissance Period the ‘Salmagundi’ (a salad comprising of cooked meat, seafood, fruit, leaves and nuts) to the Modern Day ‘Chef’s Salad’.
Ultimately, the basic salad has remained the same: a bed of mixed greens. The remainder of the ingredients added to the salad being up to the chef’s discretion. The original ‘Chef’s Salad’ devised at the Ritz-Carlton was of smoked ox tongue with watercress leaves! As a result of this creation, hotels and upper class restaurants started presenting their own salad concoctions. Each trying to outdo the other.
As well as salads having a variety of ingredients assembled together to surprise the discerning eater, chefs started to add warm ingredients to salads. Such as warming eggs to create a dressing for a Caesar Salad or boiling potatoes still served warm in a Tuna Niçoise salad.
It may seems as if pretty much anything goes is the only rule to follow when making a salad. It can be cold, warm, vegetarian, seafood, meat, chicken, bread, fruit and nuts (sounds a bit like the Renaissance version!)
Every salad – no matter its ingredients – is only as good as its dressing!
Here are some recipes (more assembly instructions) you must try to help restore your faith in salads.
Mozzarella, Jamón Serrano and Peach Salad
1st: Tear the mozzarella balls and places around the plate you are going to serve this on.
2nd: Cut around the peach and remove the stone. Then likewise tear the peach into pieces that are similar in size to the mozzarella.
3rd: Tear strips of cured ham and drape in and around the pieces of peach and mozzarella.
4th: Add rocket leaves to the dish.
5th: DRESSING: squeeze the juice of a lemon over the dish and add a generous glug of olive oil.
6th: SEASON: sprinkle some freshly cracked black pepper over the plate.
NB: Make sure that the peaches are at room temp before assembling this salad as you don’t want to be in tooth sensitive pain as you bite into this! If you can’t get seasonal peaches then swap them for conference pears which are great in this recipe. Use any cured ham your stomach or your pocket desire. As a starter at a dinner party serve with a french baguette to soak up the juices that your guests will be fighting for that have collected at the bottom of the dish!
Watermelon and Greek Feta Cheese Salad
1st: Cut a small red onion into rings and place in a bowl to steep in the juice of a lime and sprinkle with Maldon salt.
2nd: Cut the watermelon flesh off its rind and remove as many black pips as you have the patience for! Place watermelon chunks onto your serving plate.
3rd: Cut a block of feta cheese into chucks and add to the serving plate.
4th: Add the red onion to the dish.
5th: DRESSING: Pour the now pink lime juice and olive oil over the dish.
6th: Add flat leaf parsley and some mint to the dish and SEASON with freshly cracked black pepper.
OPTIONAL EXTRA: add black olives to the salad.
NB: Mix everything gently so as not to break the feta or watermelon too much.
I’m not suggesting we all start chomping rabbit food until bushy tailed but salads can be a delicious, filling, refreshing light lunch as well as an accompaniment to any evening meal.
Some of my favourite salads are just one ingredient doused in olive oil and sherry vinegar and chopped garlic, such as the tomato salad at the top. Unlike baking, assembling a salad is free from restriction, just think about flavour combinations you like and how to best present them in their simplest form.
Why not have a go?
Feel free to reply with your favourite salads.