by Amy Hunt
Salads are the perfect food for lazy summer eating, and lazy summer people. Let’s not talk about the itsy-bitsy shredded lettuce with a few tomatoes salads, we’re talking about the complete meal in one dish, exploding with flavor salads.
The best way to create substantial salads is to choose one main ingredient and build complementary tastes, textures and colours around it. Well-flavoured protein foods, such as cold spiced chicken, roast beef or salmon, all make excellent bases for a salad. Lighter ingredients such as Mozzarella or prawns work well, too.
When you've chosen your base ingredient, balance the flavour with other items. For example, salty cheeses are delicious with sweet summer fruits such as pears or nectarines, while roast beef tastes amazing with salty olives or anchovies. Try throwing in leftovers from grilling like chicken and veggies. Chop them up into bite-sized pieces. Nuts like sliced almonds or chopped walnuts add a nice crunch and taste. Cheese adds lots of flavor too, but remember, you only need a little bit!
Once you've two or three ingredients that enhance one another, try adding an aromatic topnote such as sweet red onion, lemon zest, chives or basil. You could then add something to bulk out your salad, such as pasta or rice, or you can always serve some bread on the side.
A good salad must have good texture. Soft foods, such as cold salmon, need the contrast of al dente vegetables - think blanched broad beans, new potatoes or asparagus. Crisp cos lettuce is the perfect foil to soft ingredients, too, but can also work really well with crunchy croutons or nuts. It's the dressing, however, that really pulls everything together, so select one that enhances all your ingredients. A rich, creamy blue cheese dressing will make light, crunchy ingredients, such as apple and celery taste utterly moreish, just as a piquant mayonnaise will make the delicate flavours in an avocado and prawn salad sing. For maximum flavour, prepare your salad using ingredients at room temperature, mix the dressing just before serving and don't worry about garnishing. Salads like these look so spectacular, they need little more than a beautiful plate to set them off.
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *