I’ve never been very good at making salads. I love salads. I love them – I love their crisp flavours, their varied colours and textures, their fresh fibrey vitamin-packed goodness. I love them salty, sweet, spicy, sour, savoury, warm or cold, any day of the year – but I don’t make a proper salad very often, and that is mostly because the salads I make are lacklustre to say the least.
I haven’t been feeling quite on top of things recently, and like all sensible people, when I feel rubbish, I eat rubbish. Dishes requiring minimal effort, ideally made from ingredients I already own, are the order of the day – and if they’re high in sugar and higher in fat, so much the better (peanut butter and jelly tortilla wraps, anyone?).
But I realise the vicious-cycley nature of my errant ways, and as I was pondering my general gloominess this afternoon, and considering my next store-cupboard meal, I said to myself, ‘Self, it’s about time you kicked yourself out of these doldrums, and the only way to do that is with a salad,’ to which myself replied, ‘But you make really boring salads.’ And there’s only response to that, really. ‘Well, we’d better learn to make a good salad, hadn’t we?’
So the salad challenge has begun. By the end of this summer, I hope to be able to make a salad I would be happy to serve as a main course to my friends, rather than an apologetic side of token rawness alongside the main event. Because I’ve realised that one of the reasons my salads are so very dull is that I don’t accord them any kind of status in their own right, so no wonder they’re a bit limp and colourless.
Anyway, the challenge began, not as I mean it to go on, but with a fairly accurate representation of my normal salad technique, and some ingredients I had in my fridge: fennel, curly lettuce, spinach, rocket, parmesan and the end of a left-behind pot of mixed olives. I used half a bulb of fennel and marinated it as instructed here for an hour, sliced not-very-thinly in crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and wine vinegar (no balsamic). Then I added some mixed leaves, parmesan shavings and the end of a pot of olives from the fridge, which gave the necessary richness to turn it into a main course and, with its slivers of peppers, chillies and garlic (and the occasional tiny cube of feta!) a crucial dash of colour. It wasn’t show-stopping by any means, but fresh and fibrous and very green. A start, at least.
I’ve bookmarked some really exciting salads I’ve come across in blogland since my dinner of herbs, but I’d love your recommendations. What are you favourite salads and salad-magic suggestions? All tips and tip-offs gratefully received.