It has been unbearably hot the last few days so we are eating a lot of salads with or for dinner. Yesterday was 104°F in the shade so you can bet I do not want to cook outside or even heat up the kitchen cooking a lot of food that we all wished were cold anyway. It does not even matter what kind of protein you have, it can be cooked in the morning before it gets hot and chilled in the refrigerator, saving time in the evening and keeping the kitchen cool when the heat is the worst. (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on poached salmon.) I suspect that many people do not realize exactly how simple a nice, freshly tossed salad is and how much better it is with beautifully fresh ingredients.
We all know that salad has vegetables of some sort in it, but the root word of salad is sal which is Latin for salt. The right amount of salt is critical for a great salad (and please no iodized salt, in fact, throw out all of your iodized salt). Most Americans drown their delicate salad vegetables in about 10 times too much dressing that consists of bad vinegar and rancid oil instead of a perfectly balanced flavor enhancer for delicate vegetables that should be the focal point of the salad. Without being too rigid about what vegetables make up the salad let’s discuss the dressing a little more. A basic salad dressing (vinaigrette) would consist of an acid (sour ingredient), salt and pepper (seasoning), and enough oil to smooth out the flavor of the acid and provide the dressing with some clinging power.
That is the basic concept by which all vinaigrette is constructed leaving only one detail to be mentioned…get the best quality you can find. All of these ingredients can be combined in unimaginable combinations to produce very different results. The sour component could be vinegar (there are too many types of vinegar to mention), citrus juice, grape juice (try verjus some time), any fruit juice, wine or any other sour thing you can imagine. The oil could be a big, fruity olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower seed oil, cottonseed oil, sesame oil, safflower oil or any other oil your heart desires. Choose an oil that compliments the acid ingredient and still allows the flavor of the salad to come through. You don’t want to over-power the salad with a strong oil, but some ingredients can stand up to a strong oil so don’t be afraid to try different combinations to see how they work together.
For this salad I am using Lemon juice, Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The salad has several seasonal ingredients and I finish it with some 2 year aged Cheddar cheese.
Recipe for 4 Entrees:
- 2 Heads Chopped and Cleaned Romaine Lettuce
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- 1 organic carrot shredded
- Kernels from 1 left-over ear of sweet corn removed from the cob
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Juice from ½ lemon
- 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea Salt and Pepper to taste (start with about ¼ tsp of each and taste it before serving)
Get all of the ingredients cleaned, cut and otherwise ready to go until a few minutes before you want to serve the salad. Place them all in a bowl and season the top with salt and pepper then add the lemon juice tossing to combine. Get every thing well mixed before adding the oil. This will coat each and every element of the salad with salt and lemon. Finally, drizzle the oil all over the salad and toss to coat evenly. The finished product will have a delicate seasoning and definitely not be over powered by the dressing.
There are many more dressing that can be made and even more ways to manipulate the basic theory behind the recipe to get the perfect results. Enjoy!