I was a kid when I first heard the phrase “salad days” and even though I took the phrase quite literally, it still sounded great to me; very summery, sunny and even yummy. While I had a rather limited range of vegetables I found edible, I always loved and ate every last forkful of my dinner salad (I’m sure being drenched in French or Ranch dressing helped things along).
Actually, this Shakespearean turn of phrase, in today’s times, refers “to the days of carefree innocence and pleasure of our youth.” Which again, to me, sounds very much like summer; is there a more carefree and pleasurable time then the endless summers of childhood. And for me, summer = salads, so today I’m sharing my formula for building the perfect summer (or anytime) salad.
A number of years ago, wht review team member Sherri shared with me her “secret” to always making a perfectly balanced, tasty salad. She said this basic combination of ingredients, mixed and matched to suit the meal, always produced a hit; a dish that had her guests raving. Turns out you only need a handful of quality ingredients to prepare a delicious, simple yet complex tasting salad.
When you need to prepare a salad for a last minute supper party or for the family meal; wash, chop and toss a mixture of the following:
• Fresh Greens – The mixed lettuce bag selections in the grocery store are a nice time saver, but you should always Rinse Well, even if they are marked “prewashed”. Check your farmers market too – I’ve found vendors that make their own customized mixes of fresh organic lettuces.
• 2 or 3 Basic Vegetables – Toss in a few crunchy veggies, like cucumbers, snow peas, baby carrots or celery. Unless I know the tastes of every guest, I go with the commonly liked choices and avoid the two veggies I find are most often picked out of the dish – onions and tomatoes.
• 1 nut – For some reason, nuts in salads always say “fancy” to me. Pick a fave; walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, pine nuts, etc.
• 1 fruit – Again, to me, fruit in salad equals classy. Some of the best choices include apples, strawberries, oranges and pears.
• 1 cheese - The best part! A sprinkling of cheese makes everything better. Gorgonzola and goat cheese work really well with most fruits – and you can’t go wrong with fresh mozzarella – or try shredded extra sharp cheddar for a bit of bite.
When gathering your collection of salad ingredients, think back to some of your favorite salads and “steal” some of those flavor combos. Love Greek salads? Look to feta cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes. Thinking country chic? Try apples, walnuts and blue cheese. Preparing a meal with Asian flare? Maybe orange (or tangerine) slices and slivered almonds. The possibilities are endless!
Then simply toss well and serve with a simple dressing to let the fresh ingredients shine.
Readers – what are some of your favorite salad combinations? And does anyone want to share the secret to making a simple, flavorful dressing?